ARCHIE P. McKISHNIE
estate is in the hands of those two astute men, Jonas Haight and Wesley Trollivor. Keen men, unhampered by scruples, cold, cruel, crafty. To them comes the news that
the heir, reported dead, is alive and coming to claim his own. Too deeply involved to meet this situation, they induce Nevilles, who drops in upon them with his story of overshadowing crime to act as the heir. They see their opportunity of covering their defalcations by having Nevilles impersonate the heir. They feel that they can later depose him with gestures of righteous indignation, in imposing on their credulity as one who has committed a criminal offense. So Nevilles takes up the role of David Webster at the Parnley home, Shag Villa. Webster once in the saddle does not show himself as amenable as the conspirators had hoped. He falls foul of James Turnbull another cold blooded business man, whom Haight and Trollivor are anxious to placate. Trollivor is engaged to Turnbull's half sister, but for some reason is reluctant to marry. Turnbull knows that both men have made serious losses on the market, and that to recoup these losses Haight is preparing to enter a horse in the Adanac handicap, and the story goes on.
CHAPTER XII On the Forest Road
AS MYRA HUNTINGDON'S blue runabout turred into the country lane leading to the Meadow Course stables the girl's eyes danced and a laugh
bubbled up in her heart. It was as though a page had been lifted from the volume of happy yesterday and spread before her. The shrill, nervous nicker that bespeaks the thoroughbred came from the interior of the long, white building and was answered by a soft whinney further on. A negro boy was singing plaintively an old southern melody as he worked. The sweet, whole-
some stablesmell was in the air; the old alluring tang of her girlhood days, when she had spent many sunny hours with her father among the horses he loved so well, was here to grip her.
As the car stopped before the open door a gaunt, grizzledhaired man emerged from the stables. At sight of the runabout and its occupant a quick f r own clouded his lean, sun-blistered face.
Teddy Jerome possessed a 11 the antipathy of the trainer for uninvited, curious visitors to his training quarters.
Then, as Myra smiled, he dropped blankets and bucket which he was carrying and strode swiftly to where she was sitting.
“Li’l Myra,” he cried, “is it really yo-all?”
if you would know me, Teddy, after all these years.”
She laughed and held out both hands .to him.
“You are changed, Teddy,” she said half sadly, as he raised the slim hands and pressed them against his stubbled cheek.
“Ten years runnin’ on heavy tracks has put the old hoss well up among the ‘has beens’, girlie,” he sighed. “Ah reckon Ah should of had my shoes polled and been turned out to pasture ’long with old Darphena. That’s where Ah belongs Ah reckon; only, somehow Ah’m thinkin’ Ah’ve got a lick or two in me yet.”
TTIS seamed face softened to a smile of tenderness. -*■ -1 Better, brighter years when every unit of Jim Huntingdon’s string of thoroughbreds had been shaped into makers of turf-history by his hand were back before him. Could this wonderful creature be the same little girl who had ridden those satin-skinned, epoch-making fillies, taking the highest hurdles or flashing her mount home along the oval course, a veritable part indeed of the steel-muscled, fiery-souled thing she bestrode?
Jerome out of love and admiration had given her the name of Little Filly then, and now, gazing into the wide eyes that had grown suddenly serious, he murmured the name again.
Impulsively she sprang from the car and reaching up drew his face down to hers.
“Teddy,” she whispered, “you are like a breeze from— home. Almost I can see Daddy'here beside you. I have been so—so lonely.”
A tear trembled on her long lashes, and splashed on his sun-bitten hand.
“There, there,” he comforted, “yo-all mustn’t cry so. Old Teddy has been purt’ nigh down and out with lonesomeness too; but he’s back with his old friends now. Ah reckon, Miss, Ah wouldn’t have found the goin’ so hard if so Ah hadn’t been accustomed to runnin’
with thoroughbreds.” “ You must never leave us again, Teddy,” she told him. “I’m sure Daddy would be so glad to know that you have come to us. And who can say but he does know?” she added softly.
The trainer nodded.
“Yo-all will want to see the hosses, Miss. Fire Fly is out on the track but she’ll be in directly now. Darphena is in the stable. Just had to bring that old lady home ’cause she took to jumpin’ fences and explorin’ fields remote. That yearlin’ Jinknatt is a comer, all right. Came rompin’ in from pasture half an hour ago an' didn’t stop for the gate. Sailed right over it, as though ii hadn’t been t! ere.”
He chuckled softly.
“That colt’s got nigger Sam ’bout scared to death, he’s so playful and so rough. Ah’ll just go and interrupt that nigger’s song and have him lead the hosses out so you can get a iight of them.”
“No, not this morning, Teddy,” Myra said. “I simply came down to have a little visit with you and tell you that I am glad you are back. And, Teddy,” she, added, the old serious look back in her eyes, “I wanted to hear you yourself say that you think Fire Fly has a chance of winning the Adanac Stakes. You see, Guardie told me only this morning, and I’ve lost no time about making enquiries first hand.”
Jerome puckered his brows. He meditatively took a huge pinch of “fine cut” from a pouch and conveyed it to his cavernous mouth.
“Fire Fly’ll win,” he stated finally, “barrin’ accidents; no doubt about that, Miss Myra. By accidents,” he added, noting her questioning glance, “Ah mean possible contingencies, as your Daddy would say.”
“I see, Teddy. A faster horse you had not counted on may be entered at the last moment. That’s possible I suppose, is that it?”
“Yes, that must always be reckoned with; but Ah think we’re safe enough there. If Ah’ve got this li’l Fire Fly right, she’ll be good enough in two weeks’ time to come home ahead of any hoss on this continent. Kentucky Kate is the only hoss that might possibly beat her, and her owner has been disqualified; so she won’t be entered.”
He bent and recovered the blankets and pail.
“And the other contingencies?” Myra asked. “What are thev, Teddy?”
‘ ‘ T here’s only one other. Miss Myra—a jockey.”
“I forgot,” she said half tremulously. “Of course not one of the boys we knew and trusted are riding now.”
He shook his head sadly.
“A jockey's life is a short one at best, Miss M y r a. We’re g o i n ' back more than ten years, you must remember.”
She sighed. “Have you anybody in view, Teddy?” “Ah reckon Ah’ve found a good boy, Miss Myra,” he said. “Dunno just yet, but he’s shapin’ up fine. He’s a born rider and gets along well with Fire Fly. Yesterday he lowered her
mark two seconds. Ah suppose most any jockey can be bought, but Ah’mkeepin’ my eye on this lad. All’ll know soon what Ah'm to do about him.”
“Then I’ll come back in a day or so and you can tell
MYRA climbed into her car and leaned over the wheel toward her old friend.
“Please, Teddy, tell the horses I’m sorry I couldn’t stay to see them,” she smiled. “They'll understand.”
“They wilt that, Miss,”
Jerome raised his hat and stood smiling as the car swept down the lane like a flashing blue-bird.
As Myra sped cityward her mood was in keeping with the summer day, her spirits light as the scented breeze which whipped her face.
Green, restful fields swept past her; massed woods against blue skies; a white stream tumbling down the hillside to hide among a smother of ripening wheat as golden as the flecks of the eyes that danced as they drank in the harmonious blending of nature’s colorings.
Two-thirds of the eighteen miles to the city had been covered and the blue runabout was rounding a curve in the road between twin groves of grey-blue, towering beeches, when quite suddenly, without warning, the engine died and the car, swerving slightly , came to a stop.
Myra knew from the spasmodic cough of the engine exactly what was wrong. No gas! How exasperating! She would lecture William when she got home; no, she wouldn’t either, the fault was her own really; she shouldn’t have taken the car out before making sure that there was plenty of gasoline in the tank.
Now the road which had lured Myra from the main thoroughfare was a private one. It ran straight through the hardwood forest of the old Parnley estate. She had often longed to explore it and this morning the call of its quiet shadows had proven too much for her. It was, however, a poor road on which to become stranded.
She sighed resignedly and gazed about her. There was small chance indeed of another car taking this unfrequented road. She wished now that she had held to the main thoroughfare.
But the picture before her was very restful and beautiful and for the moment she forgot her worry and gave herself up to retrospection.
She had always been a lover of trees, and those monarch® which interlocked branches above her were truly magnificent specimens of their kind. Far, far beyond the end of the road, valley and hill lay bathed in hazy, golden sheen, dimming to ochre as the lane lifted to another shadowed block above which rose the white gables of Shag Villa.
ENWRAPPED in the perfect' picture, she was recalled suddenly to earth—and her present dilemma— by the sounds of a shrill whistle.
As she sat up with a start, a tall form dressed in rough tweed outing-suit swung from the trees bordering the road and came toward her. Beside him gambolled a pair of huge, wolf-like dogs. She had but time to mark his erect carriage and sure poise and note that in his walking togs he looked every inch a man, when catching sight of the car the dogs bounded forward with fierce growls.
“Back!” commanded a deep, mellow voice, and the huskies, tails adroop and hackles erect, checked their onward rush.
“I’m sorry if they frightened you,” spoke their master apologetically, as he approached the car, hat in hand.
“They’re half wolf and don’t know any better, you see.”
She smiled at him.
“Dog3 do not frighten me,” she said. “I understand them pretty well. I have three of my own.”
He had fallen back a pace at sight of her face and sound of her voice.
“Good lord,” he muttered, “it’s the Angel.”
“I beg your pardon?” the tones were just a little frigid.
“I was addressing one of the dogs,” he explained stammeringly. “His name’s ‘Angel’.”
Myra’s eyes opened wide.
“What a queer name for a dog.”
“Yes, isn’t it? You know I raised this fellow myself. He was such a gentle, lovable puppy we nicknamed him Angel.”
She laughed softly. He hoped she believed him but— His eyes swept the woodland and beyond to the vista of rolling country steeped in soft vari-hued lights, then went back to her face.
She read the look and shook her head.
“No,” she smiled, “I didn’t pause ‘to drink in the perfect scene’, as the poet would say; I paused because I ran out of gas and was obliged to do so.”
“Sometimes these little hold-ups of Fate react for our • good,” he smiled, “but not always are we able to select such a beautiful stopping-place.”
He had taken a note-book, from his pocket and was writing something on one of its leaves.
“Roxo," he spoke, and the larger of the two huskies arose from the shade of a beech and came up to him. “Take it home, old man; home!”
The dog gripped the note in his teeth and was off like
Nevilles turned to the wondering Myra.
‘T’ve sent him for help,” he explained. “He’ll take my message to the house, and the chauffeur will come with gasoline. We have to teach these northern dogs quite a number of things; I’ve sent Roxo more than twenty miles with a message and he has never failed to deliver it.”
“Isn't he splendid,” she cried admiringly, “and the other dog, will he carry messages also?”
“Not now,” he answered. “Old Dan’s been promoted
camp guard and is never asked to run messages.” “But I understood you to say his name was Angel," she minded him, wide eyes on his face.
“Why yes, certainly. It is Angel,” he stammered redoing with confusion. “Angel Dan."
“My dogs are Irish Setters,” she said. “Doyou^know
“Do I?” he smiled reminiscently. “I should say I do.
HE LOOKED at her, admiration for her discernment kindling his eyes.
“You’re right,” he admitted. “I don’t belong to the city. I belong to the big open. Already I am homesick for my forests and hills.”
“Then you will doubtless return to them?”
“Yes, I hope to, soon.”
“You are fortunate to be able to do as you wish,” she said gravely. “Perhaps you are not aware that there are thousands of poor creatures in this city who are not so fortunate; men, women and children who hunger for a sight and taste of what you please to call your forests and hills and whose living conditions are a shame and disgrace to the city which presses them down.”
“I know that,” he returned, “but after all, is there anything extraordinary about it? To eliminate dissatis-
Rough, headstrong, lovable, strong as tempered steel— and as sensitive; yes, I know them.”
SHE leaned over the steering wheel toward him, her face flushed and softly tender.
“And hórses?” she asked. “Do you know horses, too?” He shook his head. “I don’t know much about horses,” he confessed.
She looked a bit disappointed, he thought.
“Of course,” he supplemented quickly, “I haven’t had a chance to know them until very recently. I’ve made up my mind to cultivate them though.”
His pulse leaped at her quick glance of approval. Had she asked him if he knew and loved a locomotive he would doubtless have told her that it was his intention to purchase one for his own personal pleasure.
Those eyes looking into his were swaying him, would always sway him; eyes with flecks of gold lifting and receding in their depths, as he had seen flecks of gold lift and fall in the clear depths of his northland streams.
She had not recognized him. He was glad of that.
Then his heart turned a flip-flop. She had asked him question.
“I—I beg your pardon?” he stammered.
“Have you rescued any more maidens in distress?” she repeated, the crimson in her cheeks matching the red of her parted lips.
“Oh, I say,” he stammered, “I had hoped you might not remember.”
“Well, I can’t just explain how I came to be there that night.” *
“But you don’t need to explain—to me—surely. I was glad enough you were there, and that is quite sufficient for me.”
“Thanks,” he murmured. He turned away and when he looked at her again his face was grave. “You see,” he said hesitatingly, “if you knew why I was there—if you knew what I have done—”
“But I do not wish to know.”
“Thank you again,” he said relievedly. “Then I shan’t tell you. I simply want to be fair, that’s all.”
“So do I, and for the same reason, even although you have aroused my woman’s curiosity—I shall not insist on knowing. Of course,” she added, “you were out of your natural element there. You don’t belong to the city.”
faction with its surroundings from the human heart would be to bring the Garden of Eden back again. If Adam and Eve had been satisfied with their lot—”
He paused,sensing that his lightness-jarred on her.
“See here,” he said, almost gruffly, “I’ve lived among these people of whom you speak, and I know, believe me I know, that were you to lift the majority of those slummers who have your pity from their environment, they would not survive the transplanting.”
She was watching him, absorbed in his earnestness.
“Then,” she said, “you think there is no hope of successfully transplanting the masses?”
“I am sure of it,” he answered. “They would die, or return io the wretched conditions that have become a part of them.”
“I am afraid I don’t quite understand,” she faltered.
Beside the road ran a crystal stream in which silvery minnows
He pointed to the tiny, shimmering
darted to and fro. fish.
“Do you know what would happen if you took those fish and put them iit a dark well?”
“No. What would happen?”
“They would grow blind. A film would gradually grow over their eyes.”
He glanced at her compassionately.
“You might rescue them and place them back in the sun-warmed brook, but their blindness would not pass. The greatest kindness would be to leave them in the dark confinement of the well.”
Myra sighed. For a long moment she remained silent; then with a flash of her old brightness she turned to him.
Do you know that both you and I are trespassing?” she asked. “That this beautiful road we are on runs through the old Pawiley estate?”
“Oh yes,” he answered, “I know that. As a matter of fact I am staying at Shag Villa.”
“You are?” she e&claimed wonderingly.
For a short time only. I am here simply to oversee some changes which the new owner wishes to put into effect.”
“I hate him!” she cried almost fiercely.
“He would be sorry to hear that, I am sure,” he returned earnestly. “He must have done something very contemptible indeed to have so earned your hatred.”
Has he not a habit of doing mean things?” she asked. He shrugged his shoulders.
He has a habit of doing unprecedented things which many good-thinking people might not approve,” he answered evasively.
“Do you know that one of the first things he did was to raise the already high rents of his tenement dwellers?” she cried indignantly. “Think of it! When he might have lessened those rents and remodelled those wretched dwellings into something worth living in. _ It’s terrible to think that one with such opportunities had failed so signally in performing such a simple duty toward suffering humanity.”
He was silent.
“When my guardian, who is one of his business agents, told me that I could scarcely believe my ears,” she went on. “Somehow I had hoped that when this Mr. Webster came, things would—would be made better for his tenants; but all he seems to think about is himself.”
He looked up slowly.
“He is a selfish brute,” he admitted.
“There’s ho gainsaying that fact.”
“You have known him for some time?’
. “Yes ma’am, quite long enough to understand him.”
“Well, I have never seen him even and sjtill I venture to say I know him almost as well as you do. I would say that he is vain?”
“And fond of making a show.”
, “Nobody more fond.”
“Then,” she cried, “how in the world can you bring yourself to associate with him? I am sure you must despise him quite as much as I do.”
“Quite as much,” he agreed, “but you see, it s purely a matter of business with me, because —well, I need his money. Of course that sounds mercenary, but it’s the truth.”
TUST here there sounded the honk of a motor and
the throb of a powerful engine grew up above the murmur of the trees.
Another moment and a big car Swung into the wood’s road and came speeding toward them. As it drew up alongside the blue runabout the driver leaped to the ground. As he raised his cap he stared straight into Myra s wide, puzzled eyes.
“The Angel!” he muttered.
, . caught his breath hard as Nevilles’ elbow dug into his ribs.
I told you: Griddle, not to call that dog
Angei, his master’s voice rebuked. “The name doesn t suit him any more. Call him Daw.”
Griddle touched his cap. “I simply wished to enquire if he were here, sir. He didn’t come home with Roxo.”
He s here. Now then, get busy and transfer that gasoline to this lady’s car.”
no drae in obeying the order. Nevilles saw that Myra was watching him closely.
“I wonder if she recognizes in him the chap who snatched her purse?” he meditated. “It’s not likely.”
Griddle having finished his task, stepped aside respectfully.
“All ready, sir,” he said.
Myra smiled upon them graciously.
•Thank you so much,” she murmured. Then as she reached for the starter she laughed softly back over her shoulder.
“Perhaps we may all meet again for the third time,” she said and pushing home the clutch sped away like a blue arrow beneath an arch of green.
Griddle stood the picture of surprise, discomfiture and disgust, He removed his cap and felt gingerly of his dyed, closely-cropped hair.
“Just wait till I meet that barber who guaranteed this
disguise would get me past St. Peter himself,” he threatened. “If I don’t make him drink the rest of his hair-dye, may I be shot for a pirate.”
CHAPTER XIII Breakers Ahead
NEVILLES seated himself on a mossy mound and watched the blue runabout out of sight. To save his life he could not analyze his feelings. All he knew was that he felt queer, and that the world would hereafter hold but one woman—for him. He was in love with a girl whose name he did not know even, a wonderful girl, and she was Jonas Haight’s ward!
He breathed the word fervently, oblivious to the fact that his lately-created secretary was standing attentively by.
“Not at all,” vouchsafed that young gentleman. “If you’ll excuse one who knows the fair sex well indeed from being so bold as to say it, the Angel has fallen for you hard, sir.”
Nevilles looked up.
“See here, Billy,” he growled, “when I want your valuable opinion, I’ll ask for it. Shut up,” as the other attempted to speak. “And listen. If you must refer to the young lady who has just left us, you’ll be a little more respectful and use her proper name; otherwise I’ll twist that neck of yours as tight as a tarred rope.”
“But suppose one doesn’t know her proper name, sir? What then?”
Nevilles got up and stretched his long arms.
“How the deuce did you happen to come stumbling in here anyway?” he asked resentfully. “I didn’t hire you for all round handy man, you know'. I hired you for quite another purpose. Where was Mose?”
“He was over helping Foster trim the hedges,” explained the urbane Griddle. “When the dog came in with your note there wasn’t another soul about except old Robbins, so I took the liberty—”
“As you are in the habit of taking such things you should let very much alone,” Nevilles cut in. “Of course she recognized you at once.”
“The Angel—I mean the young lady, sir? Bless you, a cursory glance only. She seemed to have no eyes for anybody but you.”
Nevilles tried to look stern, failed, and throwing back his head laughed.
“Billy,” he said, “you’re a clever young man ; but you’ll need all your cleverness before you’re through playing the role I have assigned you.”
He got up from the mound.
“I’m going on to the trout stream now, after which I’ll take a run into the city; so just leave the car here. You
had best take these dogs home. I might w'ant to do a little fishing.”
He turned to the huskies.
“Go along with him, boys,” he commanded, and obediently the dogs followed the jaunty form of Griddle down the road.
EVILLES waited until they passed from view, then he plunged into the woods. For half an hour he walked briskly, the woodland scents stirring his soul, the wmodland songs echoing the song within him. Before him was the face of the Angel, wide eyes with golden flecks rising and falling in their depths, looking straight into his.
“Oh lord!” he groaned, “if she had guessed that she was talking to one supposedly David Webster she w'ould have cut me dead.
“So I’ve raised the tenement dwellers’ rentals, have I? And I’m a selfish, unsavory beggar all round? All right, it’s up to me to play up to the reputation she has of me— and take my medicine.”
He stood still on the scented path and gazed away through the trees.
“I wonder,” he murmured softly, “if I’m in love with her?” If so, he told himself, he must stifle a hope which had sprung like a tender moss-bud after rain. He must go back to the place of craggy wooded spaces, to the hills where nestled a cabin by a singing stream, a stream in which flecks of gold gleamed up when the morning air was still and the brook smiled up blue as a pair of eyes.
“Oh hell!” he sighed, and resumed his walk.
By and by he came out upon a green glade which sloped to a wide, tumbling stream. In its centre stood a roomy lodge built of logs, wild honeysuckles swept the rustic porch and clung with golden-red lips to the rude walls.
Nevilles stood for a moment listening to the swish of the stream and drinking in the picture of the sun-tinted mists painted above it. It reminded him of the streams of the wild land he knew and loved.
As he watched, a big trout leaped from the foaming current marking a rainbow' of silver and gold through the spray.
Producing a key from his pocket he unlocked the door of the cabin. The hinges creaked rustily as it opened. Inside was blue gloom, the stench of mouldy dust and disuse. The lodge was roomy, he noted after raising the blinds and allowing the light to seep through the dusty windows, which were barred on the outside with heavy hickory slabs. He observed with satisfaction that the place was well furnished. Undoubtedly, the queer old man who had built this cabin had intended it for something of a retreat, a spot to w'hich he might come w'hen he wished to be alone. Nevilles caught himself sighing as he looked about him. Almost, it seemed the dead owmer was standing before him, so strongly did the furnishings bespeak of his personality.
A big leather-backed chair stood beside an empty fireplace. On a small table close beside the chair lay an open book face dowmward, a pipe half filled with tobacco and tw'o charred matches beside it. A pair of trout-w'aders hung on a hook above the fire-place, and on a rack beneath them rested several light fly rods.
Suspended from a hook wras a brown sweater-coat and an old felt hat. Nevilles went over and stood before these. He reached out and touched the coat, almost with reverence. Then he hesitated. He wouldn’t try for a trout that morning. He had too much else to do.
He shut the window's, and locking the door turned back along the forest path.
A N HOUR later he w'as in the city. He drove straight x * to his bank. For perhaps half an hour he was closeted with the manager. From the bank he went directly to the Starkins Loan and Building Company and when he left them and re-entqred his car there was a queer smile on his lips.
“Well,” he murmured, “from now on there’s liable to be quick action.”
He drove to the hotel garage, parked his car and caught a trolley for the tenement district. His first stop was Flater’s restaurant. It was now three o'clock in the afternoon and he remembered that he had had no lunch.. He went over and leaned across the counter toward a stoop-shouldered man who was bending above a ledger.
“Tommy,” he spoke softly.
The man twisted about.
“God bless my soul!” he exclaimed.
He opened the gate and drew Nevilles into the office.
“We're safe here, son. Now tell me where tire Sam Hill you've been this last century or so. S/T’S beer, sort of anxious about you.”
“And the youngster, Tommy? Hasn't he been anxious about me too?”
“Say,” Flater’s wrinkled face puckered into a hundred tiny furrows of a smile, “he’s no bigger'n a question mark, that kid, but he’s the dangedest, cutest little bit you ever see! Dang me, but he knows me just as soon as he sees me.”
“And your wife, Tommy? How does she like the baby?"
Flater put his finger on his lips and tip-toeing to the door opened it a crack and peered cautiously out.
“That’s the queerest thing,” he said as he returned, “the all-roundest, queerest thing. Mary never had chick of her own, as you know, and you’d naturally expect she wouldn’t be strong for babies now at her time of life. But let me tell you something. The woman is actually silly over that baby. Why, she don't do anything but nurse him and look after him, and if I as much as poke my head into the room when he’s asleep she chases me out with a broom. Damned queer critters, women.”
“And the mother?” asked Nevilles.
“Well and cheerful and as smart as a cricket. She’s my right hand help now since Mary lues took up being a gran’ma toyoungTinkerTim.”
“Tinker Tim! So that’s what you call him?”
“Why dang me, that youngster’s got more names than a caterpillar has legs.
His ma calls him Thomas. Mary calls him Man-boy, and I—gosh I can’t just help callin’ the little beggar Tinker Tim.”
“Has the baby’s mother told you her story?” Nevilles asked.
“She has. She told Mary and me all about herself. And what her husband can be thinking of to act in the way he’s doing, we can’t understand. Why, say, that little woman is a lady in every way.
Good education, refined, pretty—Oh hell!
What on earth’s wrong with the man, I wonder.”
“Did she tell you about her brother.?”
"She did. How he got killed in the war and everything. She feels pretty bad about him.”
Nevilles leaned over and touched his
“Listen, Tommy, I want you to tell her than I’m going to find her husband for her.”
“By gosh! She’ll be glad to bear that, although he can’t be much of a man,” frowned Flater.
“But maybe you’d like to see her and tell her yourself, now?” he suggested.
“No.” Nevilles shook his head emphatically. “You can do it much better than I. I’m going out and get a bite to eat.
Wait until after I’m gone before you tell her anything.”
Nevilles ate his lunch and left the restaurant. As he boarded a car he was conscious that he was being followed. He took a seat, smiling as he turned the pages of the paper; then his eyes caught an item of news and the smile vanished.
“With the midsummer races not far away the interest among turf-followers naturally centres on the
main event, viz., the contest for the Adanac Stakes. Sportsmen said to possess the right dope pick Haight s Fire Fly—who is grand-daughter to Darphena of turf fame—to carry home the honors. Fire Fly is said to possess all the sterling qualities of that grand old winner—”
_ Nevilles read no further. He folded the paper, put it in his pocket and sat thinking. He was still pondering some question in his mind as he alighted from the car and entered a dingy brick building in the slovenly outskirts of the tenement district. He knocked on a door bearing the name of Timothy Bryce.
CHAPTER XIV Over the Top
A SHORT, heavy-set man whose square jaw showed a ^ blue-black beard beneath the closely-shaven skin was seated at a table littered with papers. A hard hat was pushed back on his closely cropped head. The eyes he flashed upon Nevilles were unfriendly, enquiring.
“Want to see me?” he asked, wheeling upon his visitor. “If your name’s Bryce, I do,” Nevilles answered.
“Well, I’m Bryce. Shoot.”
He lit a cigar and watched Nevilles narrowly, waiting. ‘You look after the collections from the tenements belonging to the Pamley estate for Haight and Trollivor, I understand?”
“Ido. What about it?”
Bryce twisted a little more about so as to face his
“We’ll come to that later. It seems you take—rather stringent measures with tenants who are unable to pay their rents?”
“Well,” exploded Bryce, bringing his feet from the table with a thump, “what business is that of yours?”
‘T understand,” persisted Nevilles, “that you recently evicted a woman and her baby because she was one month in arrears for rent. Is that right?”
“That’s right enough,” answered the agent defiantly. “I’ve got my orders. Besides, it’s the only way you can take with these cattle.”
“Who gave you such orders?”
Bryce stood up.
“Well, now,” he snarled, “I’d just like to know by what right you come butting into my business? If you’re from one of these Moral and Social uplift concerns, you might as well save your time. We aren’t paying any attention to interfering fanatics. You’re not the first one that’s been here on a fool’s errand, let me tell you. I suppose,” he flared, “she sent you?”
“Who?” asked Nevilles quietly.
“Who? Why old Haight’s ward, the Angel, they call her down here. Angel! If I had my way I’d give the interfering little devil a run for her money—”
The sentence was checked by Nevilles’ fist coming in violent contact with the speaker’s aggressively outthrust chin. Bryce went down in a heap.
‘ ‘ Get up ! ” comman ded Nevilles.
The agent raised himself slowly to his hands and knees. Nevilles.’ eyes narrowed. He was rough-and-ready artist enough to understand the manoeuvre. In another moment his adversary would leap and at the same time strike.
Suddenly like a flash, Bryce sprang. There was no question of his agility, his strength, or his science. One who understood the game less than did Nevilles might have been caught off his guard.' As it was, he was ready. He sidestepped, and drove a straight right and left home
to the agent’s thick neck as he shot past in his rush.
Again Bryce went down. Once more he was up and advancing warily.
“You’d better apologize for using her name, now, while you have the chance,” Nevilles spoke. “Otherwise I’m going to put you down to stay.”
“I’ll see you in —”
Again Bryce rushed. There was the sound of two sharp impacts and he sagged slowly down again, this time to lie still. Nevilles rubbed his bruised knuckles and, seating himself on a corner of the table, waited.
Finally the vanquished one stirred. Nevilles reached down and jerked him to his feet.
“Now,” he said grimly.
“Oh, I apologize,” said Bryce thickly. “Seeing I’m outclassed, it’s the only thing left to do. I don’t know who you are, but I’ll say this much, you’ve got a lot of nerve to come buttin’ into our affairs this way, and you’re going to find that out.”
“Supposing I w’ere to inform you that they are my affairs and nobody else’s, what then?”
“Yours? Who are you anyway?”
“I am the owner of those tenement dwellings.” Bryce stared.
“You don’t mean to say that you’re Webster?” “Yes.”
Bryce sank into a chair, a chagrined grin distorting his swollen lips.
“So you’re the guy whose givin’ Trollivor and hh running mate Haight sleepless nights, eh?”
He broke into a low, throaty chuckle.
“Say,” he exclaimed admiringly, “you’re a wonder! You are so. Do you know I was just making up my mind to go over to your place and see you. I’m getting fed up on Trollivor and Haight’s way of doing things.”.
Nevilles held up his hand.
“Be careful now,” he admonished. “Don’t say anything you may regret afterwards.”
Bryce stood up.
“I’m not caring for Trollivor or Haight,” he cried, thumping his fist on the table. “They’re both so crooked they can’t understand why any man should play half straight. Now,” he said flashing a look at the man watching him with questioning eyes, “I’m going to tell you something that’ll make you sit up and take notice Trollivor and Haight are juggling with your money, and have been for months.”
HE STOOD back prepared to see his listener start. But Nevilles simply nodded.
“I know,” he said quietly.
“You know! Good lord, man, how did you find out?”
“Never mind how. Now supposing we get
down to cases. If you find working for my agents distasteful, why do you stick with them? I’m curious to know.”
Bryce’s face fell.
“I can’t tell you why,” he said moodily. “They’ve got the deadwood on me, that’s all. I have to do as Haight says. But,” he cried, clenching his fists, “I’m tired of being his tool. I’ve just about made up my mind to tell him to go to the devil, and let him do his worst.”
“And that would mean—what?”
A red flush stole up beaneth Bryce’s skin.
“Jail,” he answered, “and for something I didn’t do.” , He paced the room restlessly, his hands locked behind his back.
“See here,” he said, almost pleadingly, pausing before Nevilles, “I’m not really a rogue from choice, although looks are against me. I’ve simply had to obey Haight’s orders, and drive these poor people of the tenements to the limit. I’ve made them pay exorbitant rent when I knew they had no food in the house for their hungry children. I’ve had them ejected knowing they had no place in the world to turn to, and all because I was a miserable coward; because I feared Haight.”
He stood still and brushed his hand across his face.
“But this morning, when you came in, I had just about made up my mind to tell him that I’m through. Now let him put me in jail, damn him!”
Nevilles leaned forward.
“Bryce,” he said crisply, “from what you have told me, I infer that you are in Haight's power. You wouldn’t care to tell me in just what way. I suppose?"
“I can’t,” Bryce replied dully.
“Then I’ll tell you.”
“I’ll tell you. Listen. Seven years ago there was a wildcat oil boom started somewhere in the state of Nevada. Haight and another man were the perpetrators of this, one of the most gigantic swindles ever sprung on the guileless public. Haight, too brainy and cunning to run any risk, made the man we know as Trollivor his catspaw. Being a lawyer, Trollivor was shrewd enough to use somebody else to do the dirty work; that somebody
was you, Bryce. I have no doubt at the time you fully believed in the scheme, otherwise you would not have invested your all in it. Haight and his associates cleaned up a lot of money. You dropped all you invested and found yourself in a most unenviable position. Haight offered to shield you if you would do as he said and you couldn’t choose but accept.
“Trollivor was able to buy himself influence, and being shrewd, made the best of his office. His career here has been meteoric. To-day he is conceded to be the cleverest jurist in the province. But it was not greed that actuated Trollivor. Ambition, love of power and position are responsible for his crooked work.”
NEVILLES paused, and stood watching the other man. Bryce had resumed his chair and now sat with his chin on his breast.
“Trollivor made one mistake,” continued Nevilles. “While conducting his underhand operations far afield he met a young woman and fell in love with her. He married her. Brought her here.”
Bryce looked up slowly.
“As God’s above I knew nothing of this,” he said earnestly.
“I see you didn’t. Well, he brought her here and hid her away in this hell-hole of which you have had charge. You, Bryce, drove her and her baby out on the street because she had no money to pay her rent.”
Bryce sprang to his feet.
“That was Haight’s doings. Curse him!” he cried, “he is worse than I thought him even.”
He jerked open a drawer in his desk and from it he took a squat automatic.pistol.
“Mr. Webster,” he declared, “I’m going out now to kill Haight. It’s the only thing to do. I’ll hang for it, but if he lives I’ll go to prison anyway. Don’t try to stop me,” as Nevilles’ hand gripped his arm. “My mind is made up. That man has got to pay, and when he does I’ll be satisfied.”
Nevilles held out his hand.
“Give me the pistol, Bryce,” he said. “Haight is going to pay, but not in that way. I have a better plan.” “A better plan?” repeated the collector dazedly.
“And you, Bryce, are not going to suffer further from his persecutions. Listen, if I give you my word that no harm shall come to you through Haight will you give me yours to do exactly as I bid you?”
He dropped the pistol which Bryce had surrended to him back into the drawer.
attempted to Finally he said
The collector speak and failed, hoarsely:
“Mr. Webster, I believe you’re white in spite of what they say about you. I’ll do anything you suggest.” *
“It may be that I too know how it feels to have the talons of the law reaching for me,” he said. “Let me tell you something. I have a somewhat peculiar code of my own. It is this: ‘Get the
other fellow before he gets you, but be careful of the methods you employ.’ I’m after this brace of birds, Bryce.”
Into Bryce’s brooding eyes flashed a gleam of admiration.
“By God!” he exclaimed, “you’re all man, Webster.”
Then the gleam died and he stood with shoulders sagging.
“You can’t win,” he declared hopelessly, “You’re game, but you’ll find the Haight ring too strong for you.”
“Nevertheless I shall get the better of them.”
Bryce squared his shoulders. “Then I’m with you. I’ll stand or fall by you.”
NEVILLES looked deep into
the unswerving eyes of the man. If this man knew the part he was playing and why he asked himself, would he be willing to offer his fealty? Yes, undoubtedly. He held out his hand. The agent caught it in a mighty grip.
“I’m ready,” he said. “I’ll send in my resignation to Haight now.”
“No,” Nevilles said “you can be of far greater service to me by remaining as you are.”
“Then I am to go on ¡collecting the rents?”
“I’ll pay the rents,’’¡said Nevilles, “and you can turn in the money to my agejnts. Your part will be to learn all
you can as to what goes on between them, and report to me.”
Nevilles went out into the street. Again he was vaguely conscious that he was being shadowed as he made his way quickly through the dingy throng.
Somewhere a city clock was striking the hour of five when he unlocked the door of the distillery building and entered, carefully locking the door and barring it behind him. He went softly up the gloomy stairs.
Outside the room in the upper hall he halted and bending his ear close to the key-hole, listened.
Voices came to him, one high-pitched and fretful, the other calm and reassuring.
“How much longer,” the prisoner’s voice was asking, “must I remain shut away here?”
“Not much longer,” the ot£ier voice answered. “You must be patient for yet a little time. You are sleeping and eating well. You have almost conquered your enemy.”
“Oh, I’m cured of the drug, if that’s what you mean. The very thought of it nauseates me. But listen, I must get out of here. There’s something I have got to do, somebody I must find—”
Nevilles scratched softly on the door.
“What’s that?” the fretful voice asked.
“Nothing. A mouse perhaps. It is time for your rest. Close your eyes. Now you are growing drowsy. When you awake you will be refreshed.”
Silence fell in the room. Then the door opened and Nevilles stepped inside.
“How is he doing?” he asked, motioning toward the prisoner, deep in hypnotic sleep in his chair.
“Splendidly,” the doctor answered. “He is a perfect subject; I never knew a mind so open to hypnotic suggestion as is his. He absolutely detests the sight of heroin now, and he no longer cherishes a spirit of vengeance toward—a certain person."
“But will it last?” Nevilles’ tones were anxious.
The doctor bowed.
“It will last, until I will otherwise."
“Then you feel it will be safe to give him the acid test?”
“Yes, any time now.”
“Listen,” he said. “Some time soon, if I don’t miss my guess, certain parties are going to strive to effect his release. Right at this minute one of their detectives is out-
side this building. I fancy they think I’m playing my part too well to suit them, and when my transactions of this day of our lord become known to them, there is liable to be a grand blow-up. They’ll attempt to doublecross me, of course. All they’ll require to do is to discover that I am an impostor, that I have abducted the real Webster, discover his whereabouts, set him free— and—”
He laughed shortly and crossing over stood beside the man asleep in the chair. He turned at length and rejoined the watching doctor.
“Your work,” he said, “is nearly done. It has been thorough; in appreciation of which—”
He drew a cheque from his vest pocket. The doctor bowed his thanks, then a low exclamation fell from his lips.
“Twenty-five thousand dollars!” he whispered.
Nevilles’ eyes strayed to the prisoner.
“It’s been worth it to David Webster,” he said harshly. He drew the doctor aside and spoke to him in whispers. The older man listened gravely, bowing but offering no comment.
“Now I’m off,” said Nevilles aloud. “As soon as I leave this building there is going to be a peeping Thomas outside that door. You might w§ike your subject up and carry on a little conversation with him for friend sleuth’s special edification, eh?”
The doctor bowed.
“Seven, remember. Underground tunnel—the river entrance.”
Nevilles held out his hand.
“Thanks for all you have done—and will do.”
He went out and down the musty stairs to the street Perhaps he was in a hurry, or preoccupied. At any ratehe neglected to lock the heavy street door behind him as he passed out.
All of which a skulking figure in a nearby alley noted with malignant satisfaction. Scarcely had Nevilles’ footsteps died away around the distant corner before the figure was in the building and stealing with cat-like tread up the stairs.
CHAPTER XV Strategy
FOR two weeks following his meeting with Bryce.
Nevilles heard nothing from his agents. For that matter he had spent most of his time in the tenement district and Shag Villa saw him but seldom. Upon the narrow shoulders of Griddle had been placed the whole responsibility of answering correspondence and looking after things generally.
It was Saturday evening. Nevilles, on his way to the Claridon, stopped at the telegraph office and sent this message:
“Mr. Wayne Boyer, Government Assay Office, Memphis, Tennessee.
Buy Kentucky Kate at owner’s price immediately. Ship here. Draw on me for purchase price. Keep transaction strictly secret.
"Boyer is a wizard at fooling the public,” he mused as he stepped from the office and boarded an uptown car, “and it must not be known that the famous racer has changed hands. I’ve simply got to clip Haight’s wings as effectively as I know how. Fire Fly will have to extend herself some to win the Adanac Stakes race.”
As he entered the hotel he met Haight and Turnbull face to face.
“Ah, Webster,” exclaimed Haight relievedly, “a fortunate meeting. I have been searching high and low for you. Nobody seemed to know where you had been keeping yourself.”
“Liar,” was Nevilles’ menta! comment, as his mind flashed to the man who had been shadowing him for day's. Aloud he said:
“I’ve been busy attending to some rather important business." “Yes?”
Haight raised his hawk-like eyes suspiciously and sucked in his thin lips. He turned and laid his hand on his companion’s arm. “Mr. Turnbull,” he said, “I think yrou have met Mr. Webster.” There was an insolent smile on Turnbull’s lips as he held out his hand. Nevilles wondered how far
Haight and Trollivor had taken him into their confidence. From the contempt in the man’s cold eyres would almost seem that Turnbull was adjudging him for what he was—an impostor. But no, Haight and Trollivor were too cunning to show anybody' their hand at this stage of the game. Turnbull believed him to be the real Webster. Very good.
They went into the hotel, Haight, a hand on the arm of each of the younger men, smiling and bowing to right and left to the respectful salutations of those they' met.
Continued on page 31
Continued from page 23
“A quiet room, Williams,” he solicited the clerk, “where three gentlemen may talk without being molested. And Williams, please get Mr. Trollivor on the phone and ask him to step over here right away. When he comes, send him up.” They took the elevator to the fourth floor and paused before a door at the far end of the hall. This Haight unlocked and with a gesture invited Webster and Turnbull to enter. Once inside the room he locked the door and put the key in his pocket.
“Sit down,” he said dictatorially to Nevilles. “We won’t detain you but a second. Mr. Trollivor will be here almost immediately.”
NEVILLES smiled, but there was a hard glint in the eyes he turned upon the agent.
“Isn’t this a rather unusual procedure?” he asked. “Why the bolted door and— the secrecy?”
“My dear Webster,” returned Haight, “the matter to which we must have your immediate sanction is of tremendous importance to us, and to you; particularly to you. One word overheard by'listening ears at this juncture—and there are many ears inclined our way—might mean the loss of—millions.”
He swept a look to the swarthy face of Turnbull.
“To youl” he added significantly. Nevilles dropped into a seat.
“Go on,” he said, “what is this matter of such tremendous importance?”
He glanced from Haight to the inscrutable face of the other man seated on the corner of a small table.
Haight brought his hands softly together. /
“Briefly, it is this,” he purred. “Mr. Turnbull, here, through his agent has secured cbntrol of a vast tract of country rich in oil and gás. He has generously offered us a half interest in this virgin field at a cost to us of five hundred thousand dollars. We feel that his offer should be accepted and have accordingly drawn up the papers pertaining to the deal. Mr. Trollivor will be here with them at any moment.”
He paused to note the effect of his words on Nevilles, then turned swiftly as a low knock fell on the door. He unlocked the door to admit Trollivor.
Nevilles could not but observe that the lawyer’s face was haggard and worried looking. His usual erect bearing was one from him. His shoulders slumped and e sighed like a tired man as with a brief nod he sank into a chair.
“And now, Mr. Webster.”
Haight took the papers which Trollivor produced from his pocket and spread them on the table.
“If you will just sign your name here, and append your signature to this cheque the deal will,be consummated.”
Nevilles shook his head.
“Surely you are not serious?” he said. “You gentlemen can hardly expect me to ay half a million dollars for something I ave never seen, or know absolutely nothing about.”
“But,” cried Haight, his air of amiability falling from him, “we have investigated the field. We know, and that should be sufficient guarantee for you. Surely you don’t think that a man of Mr. Turnbull’s standirfe would stoop to perpetrating a swindle?”
NEVILLES glanced at Turnbull, whose face wore a half amused, half tolerant smile.
“But this offer of sale is made by the Western Oil and Gas Syndicate,” he said, tapping the papers, “and not by Mr. Turnbull.”
“But the offer comes from Mr. Turnbull,” Haight assured him. “He is the Western Syndicate, if you must know. You could scarcely expect one of his
broad dealings to appear personally in a matter of this kind, could you? Y ou have the assurance of Mr. Trollivor and myself that the investment is a safe and sound one.”
Nevilles picked up a pen and drew the papers to him.
Haight flashed a triumphant look at his fellows and a low sigh of relief escaped him.
“Right here, please.”
The finger that touched the dotted line trembled.
With the pen poised, Nevilles looked up.
“But is there not a bare possibility of even Mr. Turnbull making a mistake in a venture of this particular nature?” he asked. “If it were a question of stocks, bonds, or real estate now—”
“I assure you,” interposed Haight, “Mr. Turnbull has had a great deal of experience in the exploiting of oil-territories.” He shook off Trollivor’s warning touch from his arm, and added: “In fact the foundation of his wealth was laid from oil manipulation in sundry countries.” “Indeed!” said Nevilles. “I’m relieved to hear it.”
He turned back to the papers, but again paused.
“If I could feel that you also, Mr. Haight, had had some experience in oil ventures,” he said, “my confidence would be still further strengthened; as your judgment would have been founded on your experience.”
Once again, evading Trollivor’s warning to be on his guard, Haight spoke quickly.
“Then you may ease your mind, Mr. Webster, because both Mr. Trollivor and myself have had such experience. Speaking in strict confidence, allow me to inform you that we have had quite considerable to do with the exploiting of Mr. Turnbull’s oil-holdings.”
He picked up the pen which Nevilles had laid aside for the moment and handed it to him.
“And now, as Mr. Turnbull has an important appointment to keep—”
A knock fell on the door. Trollivor unlocked it.
Nevilles heard a voice outside say: “Gentleman down stairs to see Mr. Turnbull. Says it’s important.”
Turnbull turned to the others.
“I’ll be back shortly,” he said, and went out.
NO SOONER was the door closed and locked behind him than Haight turned upon Nevilles.
“Now then,” he snarled, “just what do you mean by the high and mighty attitude you have assumed? What do you mean by bucking us at every turn, as you’ve been doing? Yesterday you refused to O. K. the deed of sale of the brewery property to our agents, and now you hem and haw about signing these papers.”
“Easy, Haight,” Trollivor interposed. “Just a bit of clever acting on Nevilles’ part, that’s all. It wouldn’t do for him to give in too easily. Turnbull might get suspicious and guess him out.”
Haight’s frown partly disappeared. “That’s so,” he admitted grudgingly. “Turnbull knows too much about our business already. But,” he added with a return of his old annoyance, “that doesn’t explain this young gentleman’s utter disregard in other matters. It looks to me, Trollivor, as though he’s trying to play us.”
Nevilles stood up and stretched his arms.
“I’m simply trying to play the part of Webster as Webster himself would play it,” he said, “and I don’t think Webster would have sold the brewery property providing he had other plans in mind for it.”
Then unheeding the looks of blank surprise in the faces of his agents, he continued :
"Ai for this new oil-territory in which Mr. Turnbull so magnanimously offers me a half interest for the small payment of half a million, 1 don't think that I, as Mr. Webster, care to touch it. It's too risky a speculation, for me. I—” .
He paused and stepped back, smiling into the passion-distorted face of Haight who had tairly leaped upon him.
“You damned rogue,” choked the exbanker. “You sue us for protection from the law, and laugh at us. Very well, then. Mow we're through with you—through, see? And you'll swing for the murder of that miner as sure as we can bring the wheels of the law to smash you. And we can do that, never fear. I’ve been sorry a hundred times we didn’t give you over to the police before.’’
Nevilles’ smile of confidence vanished.
“Surely you wouldn't do that!’’ he exclaimed with a shudder. “What would you gain by it? I haven’t done badly, have I? For instance, as I’ve been able to ascertain from your books, there were those investments in wild-cat mining shares involving two hundred thousand of Parnley’s money. That money was used by you toward the furtherance of your personal interests, wasn’t it? As Webster, I might have ordered an investigation; then what would have happened?”
“Bah!” Haight fairly spat the word from him. “ You order an investigation! You’re amusing, young »man, but we .didn’t give you a new lease on life in exchange for amusement. Now you do as «re say or take the consequence.”
Nevilles gave a helpless gesture.
“You’ve got me,” he sighed. “I'm entirely at your mercy.”
HE REACHED for the papers, again hesitated, and looked up supplicatingly at the two men who watched him closely. There was a hunted look in his eyes.
“See here.” he said, mopping bis brow with his handkerchief, “you’ve got me scared. I can't go on playing the part of Webster with an axe hanging over my head. At any moment you may take a ' notion to put the police onto me and I have an idea that’s precisely what you’ll do as soon as I have served my usefulness to you.”
•'Just what do you mean by that?” flashed Haight.
Nevilles tapped the papers before him.
‘T mean that just as soon as I sign away half a million of Webster’s money to you— as you are trying to force me to do now—it’s a rope necktie for me. No,” he decided, pushing back his chair, “I’m afraid I can’t accommodate you, gentlemen. at least not just yet.”
“You mean you refuse to sign?” Trollivor’s voice carried amazement. He turned his staring gaze upon Haight who had dropped into a chair where he sat shaking with passion.
“I mean,” returned Nevilles, doggedly, “that I’ll not throw away the only protection I have. I'm going to continue enjoying it until my two months are up, Get that!”
Trollivor became once more the lawyer. “Then what modifications would you suggest?” he asked, motioning toward the papers.
“Well, I'm willing to do this,” Nevilles agreed. “I’ll accept Turnbull’s offer of a half interest in this oil field, and pay him ten thousand dollars cash now to bind the bargain: the balance I will pay—let me see: I have still a few weeks to enjoy life and freedom—I’ll give him the balance on the day before my lease of freedom expires. I won’t ask you if that is satisfactory. It’s got to be.”
He "leaned back in his chair and surveyed his agents defiantly.
Trollivor turned to Haight.
“You heard,” he said. “What do you say?”
“I say,” sputtered the ex-banker, “that of all the nervy, impudent, audacious upstarts—”
Trollivor silenced him with a look.
‘ I didn’t ask you for your opinion. I asked you how you considered his contraproposition. He refuses to sign, half a million of dollars away for the reason he has just stated. He trusts us no more than we trust him. I’m in favor of accepting his offer.”
Haight opening his mouth to speak ..again, caught the lawyer’s eye.
°“Very well,” he agreed, mustering his
toppled dignity. “Let it be as he says then.”
He turned to Nevilles. “You are willing to accept the offer, pay ten thousand dollars in cash now and the balance in a few weeks?”
“I believe in playing safe, Mr. Haight.” “Humph! You believe in playing the devil, generally, it would appear. Heaven only knows how much of the Parnley money you have already squandered; but thank goodness your wings will soon be effectively clipped. You have contrived to baulk us at every turn. It has given you a vast amount of amusement no doubt, but jt is barely possible that the time will come when you’ll be sorry you were not more amenable to reason.”
NEVILLES made no reply. He signed the papers which Trollivor had amended, then much to the surprise and consternation of his agents peeled from a sheaf of banknotes he produced from an inner pocket ten one thousand dollar bills and laid them on the table. Then he stood up.
“I see you are wondering where I got this money,” he said. ‘Well, go right on wondering. It’s good for you. I have played and will continue to play the part of David Webster to the best of my ability, gentlemen. Through the newspapers which you control and other influences which you find easy to exert against me you have made that a hard task. I am known as a drunkard, a spender, a man utterly devoid of any of the finer feelings. I’m not complaining. You feel that you must do your work so that when I pass out forever the world will feel it is the better for my going. But it has made my part very hard for me, so hard that had I the chance to do again as I am doing or throw myself upon the mercy of the law—
I would choose the latter course.”
He paused, his eyes probing the faces of the two who were silent before him.
“And,” he continued, “when the threads of my lavish spending are all gathered in and the extent of my iniquity known to a penny,.it will be seen that I have played the game like a sportsman. And that,” he added turning at the door to smile at the faces turned strainedly toward him, “is more than either of you can say, you damned, underhand crooks.” Then the door opened and shut and he was gone.
CHAPTER XVI Exit Trollivor
HAIGHT and Trollivor stared at each other blankly. Then the lawyer' spoke, fumbling nervously with the papers on the table.
“There’s nerve for you. That fellow would go straight to hell with a laugh on his lips.”
“Thank the lord,” sighed Haight, “we have only a few weeks longer to endure him.”
“That is a long time, my friend,” Trollivor reminded him. “A lot can happen in a few weeks.”
“Look here,” cried the other man angrily, “what’s the matter with you anyway? Speaking of nerve, where’s yours gone?”
Trollivor made no reply. He sat beating a tattoo on the table with his fingertips.
“Why, man,” sneered Haight, “you act like a ‘down-and-outer.’ I believe in my heart you’re afraid of this daredevil.”
“No,” said Trollivor, “I’m not afraid of him. You’ll have to confess though he’s brainier than we thought him.”
“What of it?” flared Haight. “What if he is? Give him rope enough and he’ll hang himself. Once he’s out of the way it will be easy for us to convince the real Webster that the man who impersonated him is responsible for—”
He paused, nodding his head sagely.
“I get you,” responded Trollivor. “That isn’t what’s bothering me, though. This Neville is a deep one, so deep that I begin to doubt my ability to plumb him. And he’s got us, Haight. When we came out as we did and advertised - the Pact broadcast that Webster had been found
“Piffle!” broke irf Haight. “What of that? It’s easy enough to prove that we have been deceived in the matter, isn’t it?”
“Quite true. But, Haight, you’re not forgetting that we were forced into giving
him a free hand with the Parnley fortune, are you?”
“No, damn it,” grated Haight. “That’s what pinches most.”
“Nevilles warned us,” Trollivor re-' minded him, “that this thing was going to cost somebody a lot of money. I wonder if either you or I took in the full meaning of that statement?”
“Well,” exploded Haight, “we knew, of course, we’d have to pay for our whistle. What about it? Nevilles can’t have spent more than a thousand or two at most, and I happen to know that up to the present, beyond superannuating the older servants, the fool hasn’t squandered anything to speak of.”
“And how do you know that?” asked the lawyer.
“How? I’ve kept a-close watch of him, that’s how.”
TROLLIVOR got up and walked slowly up and down the floor.
“Do you know,” he asked, pausing, in front of Haight, “that he has transferred his account from the Manhattan Bank to another?”
Haight sprang to his feet.
“What’s that?” he cried, his voice sharp as a pistol shot.
“I say,” repeated Trollivor, “Nevilles withdrew a million of Webster’s money from the Manhattan Bank to-day.”
“Great God!” Haight tottered and sank into his seat again. “Why—why—” he sputtered, “this is—”
“Keep cool,” adjured the lawyer. “This doesn’t necessarily mean that the money is lost. It may only mean that Nevilles is trying to give us another of his playful jolts.”
Haight reached for the phone. Trollivor stopped him.
“You mustn’t call Lexington,” he said. “Remember, Webster has the right to draw his money as he sees fit. You arid I are only trustees of the estate, you know.”
“How did you learn’ that he drew this money?” he gasped.
“Lexington mentioned it to me casually when I dropped into the bank on my way down here. He asked me if I knewwhether Webster was dissatisfied with the treatment accorded him.”
Haight raised a clenched fist and shook it furiously in Trollivor’s face.
“Wait a minute,” said Trollivor patiently. “It isn’t Nevilles’ object to try any-. thing so foolish as that. You underestimate that gentleman. You didn’t let me finish. I learned that he had deposited the money with the Starkins Loan and Building Company.”
Haight sighed his relief.“But why in the name of common sense should he do this?” he asked. Trollivor shrugged.
“That’s what we’ve got to find out.” -
THE door opened and James Turnbull came heavily into the room. There was an enigmatic expression on his face as he crossed the floor and faced Haight and Trollivor.
“I saw Webster down stairs,” he said. “He told me he had accepted my offer of the Western Oil Lands half interest, but the full amount of the purchase price would not be available for a month.”
He glanced questioningly at Haight, who looked appealingly at Trollivor.
“Unfortunately that is so.” said the lawyer. “Most of Webster’s money is tied up in investments and it will require a few weeks’ time to secure the half million.”
“All right,” agreed Turnbull. “Now, there’s another matter of which I desire to speak. It was an understood thing I believe that the brewery property and tenement district now owned by the Parnley estate was to come under my control this month. That right?”
Haight and Trollivor nodded.
“You gentlemen gave me to understand that there would be no interference from Webster or anybody else in this connection.”
Again his listeners acquiesced.
Turnbull surveyed the pair with suspicious eyes.
“Well, gentlemen, my agent has just informed me that Mr. David Webster has already disposed of this property to the Starkins Loan and Building Company; which means, in order to secure it I must pay a double price for it, providing I can buy it at all, which is doubtful.”
The agents stared at the speaker in
amazement. Trollivor was the first to recover from his surprise,
“Mr. Turnbull,” he said, “I can only say for Mr. Haight and myself that we knew nothing about this transaction until this minute. If, as you say, Webster has sold the property he has acted solely on his own responsibility in the matter and. gone directly contrary to our wishes. Under existing conditions you must surely realize how foolish it wpuld be for us to combat your interests—and our own.
“Webster has taken the bit in his teeth. We must find some w_ay to curb him. I think we have the means of bringing him to time. The tenement district property will be yours, and soon. This much, we promise you.”
Turnbull seemed partially mollified.
“All right,”he said ungraciously. “Remember I’ve simply got to own that property.”
“It will be all right,” promised Trollivor and Haight added eagerly:
“Yes, it will be all right, Mr. Turnbull; leave it to us to bring Webster to his senses.”
Turnbull gave each of them a level look, nodded curtly and went out'.
HAIGHT swung about on Trollivor.
The lawyer was sitting staring into space. Haight gripped his shoulder.-
“Come,” he cried peremptorily, “we’ve got a job ahead of us, Trollivor. We’ve got to fi,x this man Nevilles once and for all time. Hear me?”
“You mean have him arrested?” “Exactly, and liberate the real Webster. There’s not the slightest danger in’ it for us. We’ve kept our skirts clear, thanks to my superior brain and your hew-to-the-line lawyer’s cunning. It’s easy to pr^ve that we were taken in. Didn’t Nevilles produce the necessary papers—-stolen of course—to prove his claim?”
“Perhaps you’re right,” he said finally. “There’s no telling what Nevilles will do next. It would be easy enough to have him put safely away. We could have a warrant issued for his arrest at once. We could arrange with Chief Brady to take a strong-arm crew to the old distillery building and to-night get Webster. Only—” Haight glared at him.
“To put the skids under Nevilles now means good-bye to the five hundred thousand he’s to pay into the Western Syndicate’s coffers in a few weeks’ time. Are you forgetting that?”
Haight’s jaw dropped.
“I had forgotten it,” he groaned. “He’s got us, Trollivor. We can’t touch him until his time is up.” _ -
“We could,” said T-jllivor, “but I’m afraid it would prove another disappointment to your friend Turnbull.”
He reached for his hat.
“Come on. Let’s get out of here.”
At the foot of the stairs they parted, the lawyer going out and up the street to his office.
AS HE opened the door and switched on the light something hard was pressed against his side. He wheeled to look into the cold, set features of a stranger. The man wore a linen duster, cap and goggles. He was holding a revolver in his hand.
“Mr. Trollivor,” he said in chill, level tones, “I want you to turn and walk before me out of this place to that limousine at the curb. Attempt to so much as speak and—”
He gave a significant gesture with the revolver.
Trollivor turned and walked from the office, the man following close behind. They got into the car. Another moment and it was speeding away.
As they raced through the twilight, Trollivor, sitting dumbly in terror, had no sense of the direction they were going. The blinds were closely drawn.
He leaned forward aijd spoke to the silent man opposite.
“Are you Daniel Walters?” he asked. “Yes,” the other answered, his voice as soft as a caress.
“I’ve been expecting you,” he said dully.
Then after a long silence bespoke again. “I suppose this-—is the end.”
There was no answer. The car sped on. At length through the closed blinds came stealing the yeasty, rushy smell of the river. ,
A Modern Robin Hood
IT IS perhaps strange that Myra Huntingdon should some weeks after her second meeting with Nevilles seek the shaded road which wound among the Parnley beeches once again; she believed that the desire arose wholly from having glimpsed a charming bit of scenery which she longed to transfer to canvas.
Neither is there anything remarkable in the fact that Nevilles should that same afternoon take a notion to visit the trout stream and whip its white surface for speckled, vermilion-dotted beauties.
Destiny, which sometimes assumes the form of a round-bodied sunny-haired cherub, with wings, carrying a bow and arrow, may have inspired the idea in both man and woman. If so, he must surely have chuckled gleefully when Nevilles rounding a curve in the tree-canopied road came suddenly upon a blue runabout.
A little apart from the car sat its fair owner, painting. She lboked up from her canvas at sound of his step, and frowned.
“Please,” she said, “youare obstructing my view.”
Nevilles, who was carrying an automatic pistol in a holster, intending to do some target practice at the lodge, threw pistol and belt on the sward. He removed his hat but did not move.
“Can’t you manage to put me in the picture?” he begged. “I’ll try to look as much like a tree as possible.”
She laughed, brushing a strand of golden hair from her eyes with curved wrist.
“You will note,” she said, witn a half defiant tilt of the chin, “I am poaching again: you’ll perhaps have me arrested?” “It looks as though it is I who am the poacher,” he laughed as he stepped aside. “And poachers being considered bad, reckless men I really should insist—that you paint me.”
“As Robin Hood?” she laughed mischievously. “But you know you would have to be garbed in moss green and carry a bow and arrow.”
He seated himself on a stump.
“I would like that,’’ he declared. “I have always admired Robin Hood. He had a peculiar aptitude for securing the things he most desired.”
Her eyes strayed off to the dark-green aisles of the woods. Perhaps she was picturing the forest bandit and his merry men advancing up the leafy slope to take her captive.
A little shiver of excitement and exhiliration ran through her. He was watching her, stirred to his innermost depths by her exquisite cameo loveliness and charm.
“If you were really Robin Hood—?” she said, and paused.
“If I were really Robin Hood,” he smiled as though he had read the picture her imagination had painted, “I would come stealing through that spicy shadow and
“Yes?” she prompted as he hesitated. “At the point of my arrow—to wit my automatic—force you to paint my picture,” he finished.
She shook her head, her eyes critically sweeping his well-knit form.
“No,” she said, “you would do just what he wquld do, demand all my gold and give it to the first deserving beggar you met.”
“Perhaps,” he compromised, his gaze on the sunny sheen of her hair. “I doubt, however, if I would be unselfish enough to remember the beggar.”
She threw her pallet and brushes on the grass and stood up.
I THINK Robin Hood was simply splendid,” she cried ecstatically. “I wish another like him would appear amon g us to-day and wrest some of the money from the glutted rich and give it to the poor.”
He gazed at her wonderingly.
“What a dandy chance he would have at David Webster,” he laughed. “All that audacious robber in green would have to do is creep down through these woods and grab him.”
“Would you,” he asked, “in all seriousness, like to see David Webster in the power of a modern Robin Hood?”
Her answer was given unhesitatingly.
“I certainly would. Besides teaching him a lesson it would relieve untold suffering. Oh, how I wish such a miracle would happen.”
Nevilles felt his pulses throb.
“Oh, lord,” he thought, “if she only knew how nearly her wish has come true.” She caught his faint smile and misconstrued it.
“Please don’t be cynical,” she begged. “I detest cynical people.”
“But,” he defended, “I’m not cynical, believe me. I was just wondering if, with the inconsistencies of your sex, in spite of the pleasure Robin gave you by depriving the Parnley heir of a million or so of his money, you wouldn’t, in your heart, despise him for being a robber.”
“Never,” she cried indignantly. “And I dpn’t like that expression ‘inconsistencies of sex’ either. It’s obsolete. Women, to-day, have no more inconsistencies than men ; perhaps not so many.’ ’
She laughed at the half apologetic, halfembarrassed expression her retort brought to his face.
“Of course,” she said sweetly, “I didn’t mean that. We are changeable and likely as not I would despise Robin for being a robber, and have him jailed.
“By the way,” she asked suddenly, “where does this David Webster keep himself? It’s strange I have never seen ' him. Does he never come down to the city?” ‘
“No,” Nevilles informed her. “At present, he is unable to leave his room.”
She arched her brows. “Is he ill?” There was a note of sympathy in her voice.
“He is under the doctor’s care.”
“Poor fellow,” she sighed, “even I who abhor him am sorry to hear that. And of course,” turning to him, “you cannot return to your beloved wilderness so long as he is incapacitated.”
NEVILLES winced. She had, had she but known it, expressed the truth in a nutshell.
“I hope I have not destroyed your morning,” he said as she placed the brushes and pallet in their receptacle. “Won’t you please finish the painting? I am going up to the trout-stream right away.”
“Trout stream,” she wnispered rapturously, “Oh, how I wish—”
She turned away, confused with her outburst. He was quick to take advantage of her impulsive words.
“Won’t you come?” he asked, careful not to make his request too urgent. “There are some really fine trout and I can get you rod and waders at the lodge.. You like fishing?”
“I simply love it,” she confessed. “But of course I can’t go with you.
“Oh, it’s not that,” she laughed, as his eyes shadowed, “I’m not the least bit conventional. I would accompany you in a moment'if it weren’t for a promise I have given to a little lame boy in the tenements' to visit him this afternoon. Perhaps,” she suggested archly, “you’ll 1 invite me again?’’
“Would to-morrow morning suit you?” he asked eagerly.
“Perfectly. I love stream-fishing best in the morning. The tints and colors on sky and trees are at their loveliest then, I always think.” (
“They are,” he agreed, “and the trout .rise best in tne early hours.”
She liked the smile whicn made his face seem so boyish. 1 ,
“Aren’t you going to ask me if I remember that old verse about morning fishing?” she questioned archly.
“Certainly I am. Do you remember it?”
“Ido. This is it.
“When dawn mists lay on brooklets’ breast;
Surely the hungry trout bite best.” “Bravo!” he cried, clapping his hands. “Do you think,” said she, as she threw her painting case and stool into the runabout, “that you are doing just right in running off this way to fish, when your employer who trusts you and pays you a salary is through misfortune unable to know what you do with your time?”
“ His time,” he corrected.
“Well, his time, then? Doesn’t'your conscience smite you, sir?” _
“But you see,” he explained, “part of my duties are to see that the lodge and hatcheries are in proper shape, and attend to the removal from the stream of any big speckled cannibals who devour the smaller trout. My employer should really applaud my zeal. Haven’t I craftily enlisted your aid? Doesn’t it prove that I’m a valuable man?”
SHE climbed into her car and settled herself at the wheel.
“Shall we say seven-thirty?” she asked, leaning toward him.
He did not answer at once. He was looking into her eyes, glimpsing again the
f;olden flecks of shadow which rose and ell there. Then he saw a faint flush creep into her cheeks and wondered if she thought him rude to stare so.
“Shall we say seven-thirty?” she repeated.
“Why, yes,” he stammered. “Seventhirty certainly, if that is not too early for you.”
‘"Then, until to-morrow,” she nodded brightly and speeded away up the treehedged road.
Her throat was throbbing strangely and to her eyes the myriad colors of the summer afternoon blended in a haze of indescribable tints to frame a strong face with cleft chin and searching eyes which she had seen melt to tender homage. She was happy, happier than she had ever hoped or dreamed to be, yet, being a woman, not for worlds would she have confessed herself in love.
Not so Nevilles. He knew beyond all doubt that he was in love, and he was willing to confess it. The realization brought him but small consolation however as hè sat on the moss-grown stump, his long arms nursing his legs.
“She’s bound to think, me a hanged rotter sooner or later,” he was telling himself. “I wonder just what that illustrious bandit, Robin Hood, would have done had he found himself in my position?”
A BUNCH of goldenrod along the ditch rustled ever so slightly. Nevilles got slowly to his feet and picked up the automatic.
“Now then,” he addressed the clump of goldenrod, “supposing you come out and explain.”
He was holding the pistol loosely, but the man who crept from his hiding-place and stood sullenly before him knew from dearly-bought experience that the black pistol rested in a sure hand. He was an old gunman himself.
“What are you going here?” Nevilles asked sternly.
The poacher was dirty and unshaven. He leered at Nevilles.
“What else but havin’ of a quiet doze,” he answered, showing his uneven teeth in a malignant grin.
Nevilles plucked a white puffball, about the size of a golf ball from the sod at his feet. He handed it to the other, who with a muttered oath stared down at it.
“Throw it,” Nevilles commanded, '.“any direction you choose as hard as you wish.”
“I’m damned if—”
“Throw it!” thundered Nevilles.
The man hurled the ball from him. High up and out it soared a tiny fleck of white against the blue sky.
There was a swift sweeping motion of Neville’s arm. The pistol barked. The puff-ball parted. Twice again the automatic spoke and the two halves of the target were cut into quarters.
The man who had been forced to throw the ball stood shaking. He gazed at Nevilles like one fascinated.
“I thought you might as well know what I was capable of doing with this little eight-gun.”
Nevilles placed the pistol back in its holster and threw the belt on the ground.
“Now then,” he advised, “if I were you I’d lose no time in striking the highway. You have no business on these grounds, and if I catch you anywnere on this estate again—”
He made a significant motion, but tne man lost no time obeying the order.
As he reached the curve in the road, he turned and half raised his fist menacingly.
“I should have kicked the brute good and hard,” he ruminated, half regretfully.
He swung up the road and turned into the bush. Forgotten was Haight’s spy. Nevilles’ face was soft with tender feeling as he passed along the sun checkered trail to the trout-stream.
“Queer she should know that favorite old rhyme of mine, ‘When trout bite best,’ ” he ruminated.
To be Continued