STEPHEN BLAYLOCK was very tired. It was a relief, while he waited to let the doctor out, to sink into the comfortable depths of the worn office chair. In utter weariness he snuggled his head, sideways, into the familiar softness of it, letting his hands hang limply over either side. It was good just to keep still. He stirred restlessly. The time he was wasting! On the table at his side was a pile of law books. There were more on the chair by the window. As he was able for the past two weeks he had slipped down and studied, a damp towel wound about his head to clear his mind, giddy from lack of sleep. If he could only in some sort keep up a little longer until his mother was about again, he could duff in and might still stand a chance for the travelling scholarship. That had been his thought—until yesterday. Then he had learned that although his mother was better the pneumonia had left her with one lung affected. And the doctor’s suave voice had gone on to enumerate the things upon which her ultimate recovery depended. Mountain air; nourishing food; care.
“In short—Saranac,” Stephen,, had ¡broken in with a twisted smile.
He had shut the door behind the doctor and come back in here and stared at his books.
And they had barely enough money ,to tide them over till lie, entered the firm which would only admit him if he had a year’s study in the old law university at Montpellier, lie had not opened a book since. , He had, mechanically, painstakingly, performed each common task entailed by his mother’s illness. He had gone about as usual, forced the usual cheerfulness., But the game was up.
As he sat there in the room where he had dreamed his dreams and done his man’s work, he thought of all he must give up along with his scholarship—his chance of seeing a little of the world; his’
place in the firm of which of all others lie would wish to be a member; the opportunity, perhaps, of representing his ward and. sitting in Parliament. All these he must forego to enter some uncongenial business because .of¡Saranac.
If there was only some way. Some way in which he could provide for his mother every comfort and still be at liberty to continue his career. There must be some way, if he could only think of it. He was not a fool. At college he had even the reputation of being rather clever. It was this confounded drowsiness that made him incapable of thought. Now then, for twenty minutes—it was just twenty minutes to five by the old clock on the mantel —he would really try to concentrate his mind, try to hit upon some expedient, Overhead he could hear the doctor still talking in monotonous undertone to his mother. His voice blended with the March wind rising without and the rhythmic tap-tapping of icy pellets, like homeopathic pills, on the window. Shadows were lengthening in the room. Already the dusk was blurring the pictures on the wall. Gradually, he saw the everydav shabby furnishings from a different perspective, as it were with the eyes of another. For as he lay there thinking, thinking, all at once it came to him what he could do. And as the plan evolved and grew in bis.brain, the clock on the mantelpiece gave the little premonotory click it always did at a quarter to the hour.
* * * * y * *
It was a large, room luxuriously furnished with things that bespoke taste, travel, money. Ten Eyck, connoisseur of pictures when he was not all lawyer, recognized a Copley print, a Sargent portrait, one of Whistler’s vague wharf etchings, a Scotch landscape by McYV nirter and, over in a far corner above the bronze Venus de Milo, a very good water color of the aqueduct at Montpellier, by an unknown artist. The clock on the mantel
just below the carved Lion of Lucerne, could have come from but one place-— Geneva. As the rustling sound it sometimes emitted a few minutes before striking died away, Ten Eyck selected a cigar from the terra-cotta jar Senator Blaylock pushed toward him.
“Yes,” he said, “it’s an interesting profession, is the law. I’ve seen some curious things in my day. And one of the most curious,” he added thoughtfully, “is how a case will run along for years, and then some little, seemingly insignificant occurrence will supply the missing link— mighty queer it works out sometimes. Now, there’s the Robert Krauffmann case. At last I think I have a clue.”
“Yes? How interesting. Is it a state secret, or,” he laughed a little, “may a mere politician like myself hear of your— er—discoveries?”
“So far there’s not much to tell, but it’s the small edge of the wedge.”
“What’s your clue?” repeated the Senator, carelessly, at the same time moving his chair so that his face was in the shadow.
“I have an appointment to meet my “clue” in exactly three-quarters of an hour, so I must soon tear myself away from these very excellent cigars.”
He stopped to wonder where his host could get them, and was told, and said he must send to that same obscure Jamaican place, too. They really were beyond praise.
“My clue? Well, it was at a dinner out West that I met the man who told me about him. He had been in the Transvaal at the time of the Boer War, and had had some rather weird experiences. But what interested me was his account of the night they were cooped up at Ladysmith with none too much to eat, and the vaguest notions as to Buller’s whereabouts. They got to talking, it seemed, of how they came to come, and so forth, but one chap, Le Messurier—”
Ten Eyck turned toward the corner where his host sat.
“Le Messurier,” he repeated. Paul Le Messurier. A French-Canadian. Know him?”
“I have heard of him,” the Senator said briefly. “Go on.”
“Well, as I was saying, when his turn
came they had some difficulty in making bim fork out bis past. Finally be muttered something about Buller’s never coming in time. ‘Besides, if I name no names,’ he said, ‘it can do no possible harm. And it’s something of a story.’ Someone sang out that he liked a good story—a real one—and Le Messurier laughed and answered back that this one was real enough. Then he sobered and told them that he had been a priest. And then he flashed round at them and asked if they had any of them heard of the Robert Krauffmann case. They had not, and he went on and told them about it. The stranger’s going in and selecting the jewels and writing out a cheque on the Molsons Bank to pay for them. His saying that as they did not know him and might hesitate to accept it without identification, he would step out and transact some other business, in order to give them time to see that his credit was O.K. Their sending to the bank and learning that no one by that name had deposits there. His coming back—laughing. He had made a mistake, a ridiculous mistake, and made out his check on the Molsons Bank instead of on the Sovereign, where his deposits are. But no matter. He is leaving the city on an earlier train than he had intended, and has decided not to encumber himself with his purchases, if it will not inconvenience them to keep them until he runs in again. Oh, and his cheque. Molsons ringing up Krauffmann late that night to say that they have been drawn upon for $10,000 dollars. The cheque was properly endorsed, and they had thought nothing of it until one of the clerks happened to remember that the name signed was the same as the one he had been asked to look up in the morning, and failed to find, and the_ coincidence had struck him as being a little odd, and he had spoken of it, and it was all right, wasn’t it? Of course it turned out to be all wrong—he told it just as we read it in the papers nine years ago.”
Ten Eyck paused to light a fresh ciear.
“I am not boring you?” he inquired.
“On the contrary, 1 find it very—interesting. Only I fail to detect anything that we did not already know.”
“Just you wait. The detectives were doing some of their hardest thinking, the scent was just at its keenest, so t»> speak.
when the man comes to Le Messurier and confesses—his first confessional. And he knows him. Recognizes him by his voice. He was so—what shall I say ?—so electrified, so dumbfounded, for the man had always passed for a decent head, mind you, that he got through most of his confession before the priest could collect himself. Then he reasoned with him. But it soon became evident that he had come to confess, not to repent—vastly different things. He could do nothing and of course he was bound to secrecy by his oath. Time went on. When things came to him, in whispers, and later on the same things were discussed everywhere^—not in whispers; when, by a curious chain of circumstances, suspicion fell on an innocent man, staining his good name though insufficient to convict him ; when the guilty one went on rising by his ill-gotten gains, steadily ingratiating himself into public favor—it sickened Le Messurier. Finally, to cut a long story short, he went through certain formalities which made it possible for him to leave the priesthood. War had just broken out in South Africa. He volunteered, and here he was. And that,” concluded Ten Eyck rising, “is all up to the present.” “But how—why—I don’t see—” “Don’t you? Well, my dear fellow, you will soon. This Le Messurier is waiting, I expect, at my house now. He doesn’t suspect what I am after, but when I have got through with him—very interesting profession, the law.”
The Senator came back from seeing his friend out, and dropping wearily into a chair stared at the fire. So this was the way. He had pictured it in so many, many ways. Sometimes it would be just after the votes had been tallied up, and the crowd had taken the horses off and were drawing him about themselves. That man elbowing his way through the throng, was he the one who would tell? On the platform, speaking, how often his knees had gone groggy when a late-comer slipped into a back seat. Perhaps he knew. While all the time it was written in the stars that his best friend, Ten Eyck, would unwittingly set the sleuth hounds upon him. Any effort to dissuade him would in itself be a confession. He had thought, way back in the beginning of it all, that he would save his mother. That
had been his excuse, the justification of his crime. But, as it turned out, he had not saved her. He had only prolonged her life into a two year’s death.
And himself? He had succeeded, it was true, but at what a price! It had stained him through and through. Knowing what he himself was, and yet seeing the respect in which, outwardly, he was held, warped his power of seeing good in any one. If the truth were known probably not one of his associates but what had his skeleton carefully locked away. They were whited sepulchres, all. A veil, as it were, had been drawn between him and the good. He saw only the evil.
And he must go on. Always—afraid or inwardly contemptuous of the stupid1 ity that could not find him out—he must go on. When he had committed his crime he had committed himself to unthought of crimes for years to come. It was all a net work, a hideous network of evil. And now it was closing in upon him. They might not convict him to-day or to-morrow, but sooner or later, sooner Some one close at hand spoke his name. “Back again,” said Ten Eyck. “And I’ve brought you some company. He couldn’t wait, so they sent him on here, and we met just outside. Le Messurier —Senator Blaylock. You don’t know each other, I believe.”
“Blaylock?” the figure in the doorway said. “Not know Blaylock? Why, he was my first confessee.”
It had come. The Senator felt an overpowering constriction of the chest. He could hardly breathe. All the dread, and the fear, and the abasement of the past years seemed concentrated into the present moment. He tried to move and could not. Tried to speak, but no words came. In an agony he made a supreme effort and started up, his forehead beaded with
drops.....The room was almost
dark. Somewhere a clock was beginning to strike five. The figure in the doorway came forward.
“Sorry to disturb you,” said the doctor, “but I am going now, and your mother wants you. Had a good sleep?”
Stephen looked at him. Looked round the familiar, shabby room and back again, drawing a deep breath.
“I am glad to wake,” he said. “Mighty glad to wake.”
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