THE CITY OF PERIL
A NOVEL OF ADVENTURE
THE STORY SO FAR:—“Rebbie” Woodruff— A cultured, wealthy, thirty-one, industrial and commercial dilettante—says au revoir to Natalie Stillwell, to whom he has been proposing for years. Natalie, daughter of aWall Street “plate,”encourages“Rebbie,” suggesting he bend his energies—seriously for once— to fathom the mystery of the “Hammer of God,” threatening typewritten notes her father has been receiving. MacGirr, ex-con. Black-hander, a visionary Italian youth, and a beautiful girl enter the story, and in his investigations “Rebbie” commits burglary. “Rebbie” discovers the notes come from the Italian youth, Cono di Marco. He discovers a well-equipped laboratory with fuses, TNT and bombs galore; pulls the “fangs” of the bomb destined to blow up the Exchange. Cono’s bomb is a “dud,” but “Rebbie” has him jailed. The beautiful Russian girl, Elvira Paladino (Sabouroff), visits “Rebbie,” pleads for Cono's release. “Rebbie,” enamored, agrees, on condition Elvira reports daily to him. Elvira tells “Rebbie” both their lives are menaced by the Circle. Sitnikov, shadowing the pair, throws a bomb into “Rebbie’s” flat; Elvira pulls out fuse, saving their lives. “Rebbie” surprises MacGirr and Sitnikov in Stillwell’s mansion, jimmying the safe. MacGirr dies, but the other crook escapes. Elvira disappears. “Rebbie” bends every effort to locate her, and learns from Harvey Stillwell that she is to be found in the company of a notorious Russian, Mutashenko. Natalie announces her engagement to another, but “Rebbie” doesn’t seem to core.
The Outward Trail
A FEW moments in the open air of that fresh spring morning brought me back to my senses. My brain had cleared by the time I reached the corner of Fifth Avenue. I hailed a taxi-cab, climbed in, and started for home.
More and more I realized the problem before me, as I went hurrying south-ward along the crowded Avenue. I began to comprehend how the entire situation had changed. Again it called for action—immediate action. It meant a revision of every plan and movement.
Too much time had already been lost.
Already, at that very moment, everything hung in the balance. The very cab-wheels seemed to be singing: “I must get her—get her—get her!”
I calmed myself and checked off my new discoveries, point by point. The first was that Elvira had deliberately and voluntarily permitted herself to drop out of my life. She had done this because she suspected that it was for my own welfare. The next point was that she was in hiding with a man who was a revolutionist. That hiding-place was on an East Side top floor, somewhere at the extreme end of Fifth Street. The name of the man who lived on that top floor was Mutashenko. He was one of the Black Sea naval revolutionists, in exile. It was, indeed, something to work on.
I lost no time in getting down to Lefty Boyle. His face, as I broke in on him,
•wore no expression beyond one of dreamy satisfaction at the cigar he was smoking.
“Do you know anything of a man named Mutashenko?” I began at once.
He smoked for a minute or two meditatively.
“A Bolshevik? An ex-anarchist?”
“Yes, a ringleader in that Black Sea mutiny—one of the executive committee of what they call the Social Democratic Party!”
“What made you ask that?”
“Why shouldn’t I ask that?”
“Because I imagine a general alarm was sent out for that man two d^ys ago. Janoff Mutashenko—that’s the man they’ve been tryin’ to extradite!”
“What else do you know?”
“His wife went to Washin’ton to straighten things out, so he could be let off as only a political refugee. The Petrograd people claimed he was a criminal and nothin’ more. They kicked up such a row about his extradition that Commissioner Hitchbum had a hearin’ in the Federal Buildin’ here. But before anything was done, Mutashenko and his wife slipped away!"
“You’re sure he had a wife?”
“Dead sure. Married her at Fiume, before the two of them got away for America. She went under the name of Musya Siganoff, or Tsiganok. She was wanted for bein’ mixed up in the Livarn revolt.”
“And this woman is living with him?”
“As far as I know, she is. But don’t ask me to prove it. Even the authorities here wouldn’t be able to verify a thing like that.” Then he added, significantly: “You remember the Gorky case!”
I preferred to remain silent.
“They don’t even know where Mutashenko is hangin’ out. The Washin’ton people aren’t doin’ much to protect him, and he knows it. So he’s been lyin’ low, hopin’ Coudert or De Lodigensky will let the thing blow over.”
I vaguely remembered an evening paper’s editorial to the American people, enlarging on how the Bolsheviks had beaten this fugitive “girl-wife” and demanding American justice to resist the Tyrant of Russia.
“And if they do round him up, he’ll be deported?” “That’s what.”
Author of “The Prairie Wife," “The Prairie Mother“The Man Who Couldn't Sleep," etc.
“And that means they’ll shoot him or hang him?” "Sure thing.”
“But it’s ten to one he’ll never be taken alive. You know what those Bolshies are!”
Yes, I had an inkling of what those ‘Bolshies’ were. I tried in vain to fathom such obsessions, to understand by what process of self-hypnosis those rapt and impassioned spirits could fortify themselves to face such an end.
“Would he be a hard man to round up?”
“No worse’n a she-grizzly after a hard winter." “Lefty, we’ve got to find that man.”
He looked up at me, studying my face.
“That’s hard luck,” he said.
His tone, I thought at first, was merely one of mock solemnity. But his face was plaintively serious.
“And what’s more,” he continued thoughtfully, “nobody’s got an inklin’ where he’s holdin’ out.”
Again he looked up and studied my face.
“Why d’you want him?” he asked.
“Because he and Elvira Paladino are together.”
LEFTY framed his lips for whistling, but emitted no sound from them.
“He’s writing some sort of history of his revolt, apparently for home consumption,” I explained. “Elvira Paladino has been hired to help him carry out that work. They have to do it in secret. They’re at work on it together, at this moment. And there’s the whole mystery in a nut-shell.”
“That doesn’t help us 0ut any,” suggested Lefty, after a dispassionate study of his cigar-end. “Even though we’re dead sure he’s still in New York it doesn’t make our job any easier.”
“But I am dead sure he’s in New York.
What’s more, I know the particular part of New York.”
The stool-pigeon’s crafty little eyes shifted quicklyin his crafty little head. Then he relapsed into indifference.
“I know they’re in this city, and in one part of it!” I repeated.
“It’s a sizable burg,” qualified the cautious Lefty.
“They’re on a top floor on the east end of Fifth Street.”
“But what particular floor?”
“That’s what we’ve got to find out.” ‘‘How about Schmidlapp? Is he on this trail too?”
“That’s something I can’t say. My personal impression is that Schmidlapp doesn’t know anything more than we do. He may not know as much. But now Schmidlapp doesn’t count!”
“But he’s got his contract to deliver the lady over to
“He’s not able to carry out that contract,” I suggested. “I don’t believe he ever intended to carry it out.”
Lefty continued to look worried. “You mean you intend to forestall him?” he asked.
“I mean it’s my duty to find that woman. I’ve got to find her. I’ve got to reach her without loss of time.”
“Then we’d better be gettin’ over and muckrakin’ that Fifth Street sky-line,” suggested Lefty. “There’s still the danger of Schmidlapp throwin’ a scare into Mutashenko and gettin’ him on the run!”
“That’s one thing I’m afraid of."
“And there’s a bigger danger than that. If the authorities should happen to nail Mutashenko, they’ll nail any woman they find workin' with him. They’ll make their extradition papers cover Elvira Paladino as well.”
“They can't,” 1 cried. “They daren’t! There’s nothing against her!”
"There’s her old Inner Circle work against her. They’ve got that —she’s been listed with the local people for over a
“But that doesn’t make her a criminal, simply because she once believed in what they call social democracy!”
“A Bolshie is always a criminal—to the police.” was Lefty’s retort.
“Then we’ve got to get her!” I cried. “We’ve got to reach her at once. We’ve got to save her from herself!”
Lefty stopped me on my way, with a half-contemptuous jerk of a thumb over his shoulder.
“You’d better get rid of those glad rags,” he suggested.
It was a suggestion upon which I began to act at once. I kept on talking through an open door, however, during that hurried change of attire.
“Can you tell me anything more about Mutashenko?”
“Only that there’s an old order for his arrest,” was Lefty’s reply. “He and a Bolshevik called Osolin started a good deal of newspaper talk, six or eight weeks ago, by claimin’ the protection of the American flag. He said he thought he was cornin’ to the land of liberty, and people who didn’t know anything about him began feelin’ he deserved protection in this country. Even some of the newspapers took it up and began kickin’ against the idea of a political refugee bein’ given back to his home folks.”
“Do you know what he looks like?”
“I can’t remember any police description. But I’ve heard it said, somewhere, that he wears his hair long, and used to write nice little love-poems in Russian before he got to pinchin’ navies!”
Another deliriant was my inward remark—which I felt Lefty would not have fully understood.
“Do you know East Fifth Street?”
LEFTY was thoughtfully silent for a moment or two.
J “That’s too far north for dance-halls and such things,” he ruminated. “But it’s somewhere along there that they’ve been having those gang-fights these last few months!”
“What have dance-halls to do with it?” I asked, unable to bridge the break in his thought.
“Well, you see, we get most of our tips from women, street-women and the like. Fifth Street’s too far north to look for much outside help.”
“There’s nothing in that neighborhood you know?”
Again there was a moment or two of silence.
“I stand in with a cobbler on Avenue D, somewhere about there.”
“What is he?”
“He’s a Livonian. Outside of that, between you and me, he’s the neatest counterfeiter in New York.” “Couldn’t he. help us along a bit?”
Lefty was doubtful.
“He’d only freeze up. They forget everything they ever knew when it’s a case of Black Hand or Bolsheviks.”
“Then I might try him,” I suggested.
“Nothin’ to be lost in a try.”
“Any other line of advance come to your mind?”
“Nothin’ I know of much, till I have a look over the ground.”
“I don’t want to feel that we’re leaving a stone unturned,” I explained to him. “This is the biggest and I hope the last movement of this whole tangled wild-goose chase.”
“You’d better take your man along,” said Lefty.
“I’ve told him to be ready.”
“HaVe you got an extra gun?” casually inquired the little man in the other room.
“I’ve got a German model of a magazine hammerless, if that’ll do?”
“Size of a street-car?”
“No; pocket size. It throws a thirty-eight mushroom, long, with a nickel head.” •*
Lefty chuckled in quiet appreciation“That sounds ugly enough.”
I stepped out, a walking example of what ten minutes of hurried democratization can do.
“Ready,” he answered.
I looked at my watch. It was fifteen minutes to two.
I wondered in a sudden mood that was half anticipation, half unrest, what life held in store for me during those next few hours.
The Hole in the Wall
TpHAT neighborhood which lies between East Houston Street and the gas-tank district on the one side, and Avenue D and the East River on the other, can scarcely be called New York at its best. It might more appropriately be called the back yard of the city, with its feedstables and horseshoers’ cellars, its shabby foundries and
factories, its narrow and slatternly-looking streets so crowded with refuse and children, its overlooked garbagebarrels and neglected pavements. Yet at the point where Fifth Street crosses Lewis and dips toward the open spaces of the East River, the sunlight is less obscured, and the air less tainted.
It was along this section of the street that I^efty and I took our casual way, noting how the roar of the more open avenues was subdued to a rumble, how we seemed to be at rest in a strangely isolated and murmurous backwater of the great city. It was indeed a choice corner of New York for a fugitive.
We pursued our way carelessly, yet cautiously, with eyes open for any and every sign that might be of use to us. We wandered on, almost to the water’s edge, where we could see the tall masts of schooners and smell the cargoes of fresh pine lumber and hear the shrieks of the children at play on a near-by recreation-pier. Then we worked our way back again, back into the smell of street dust and curb-side offal and the odor of scorching horse-hoofs. But we stumbled on nothing that gave us any inkling of what we sought.
A house-to-house canvass was out of the question. Even to be seen a second time on that street had its disadvantages. There was always the danger of “moccasin telegraph”—of an alarm being given. As Lefty had said, we had always to hunt from cover.
“I’d like to see what we could do with that Livonian cobbler,” I explained to Lefty, as we swung northward into Avenue D again.
“He has a hole-in-the-wall in the next block. You’ll have to break away from me, though, if you’re goin’ to brace him!”
“I’ve got a better plan than that. He knows you’re
connected with the force. He doesn’t know me. I’ll try breaking through his reserve by dodging into his shop. You pass his window, look in, and give me a chance to show you’re after me and that I’ve given you the slip.” “And then what?”
“I’ll get anything I can out of him. But what’s his name?”
“Jan—Jan Sydow. He’s nobody’s fool, you know He drives pegs in that dirty little hole-in-the-wall of his; but he can speak five languages.”
“I’ll be careful,” I told Lefty, as we swung apart and made ready for our movement.
It was carried out without difficulty, once the cobbler’» door was located.
I flung it open and stepped inside, breathing heavily Quickly shutting it behind me, I crouched back in the comer, in an attitude of suspense, listening.
The cobbler sat on his low stool pounding a slab of leather that had been soaking in a pail of dirty water. He did not look up at my entrance. He did not even seem to shift an eye at all my theatrical attitude of waiting. Nor did he move when Lefty appeared before the narrow window and stopped. The stool-pigeon even peered in, but the hammering did not cease. There was not a word until Lefty had passed on. The brisk and preoccupied pounding on the wet sole-leather continued. The man’» bleached face still bent over the huge flat-iron which he held anvil-wise between his gripping knees. But I could hear his voice distinctly as he continued at his work;
“He’s gone. It’s all right.”
I made a gesture for caution, and still waited. The cobbler, still wielding his hammer, looked up at me for the first time.
He arose from his stool, reached over, and pulled down the blind that covered the windowed half of his little door. Then he struck a match, and lighted the single unshaded gas-jet that stood out from the bald brick wall above his stool. I made a gesture as though to lock the door, but he stopped me, with a shake of the head. It was not the first time, I felt, that this little den had been made use of as a refuge in time of need.
“What is it?” he asked, and I noticed his tone was still non-committal.
“The police,” I told him.
“Who?” he asked.
“A plain-clothes man,” was my answer.
His unblinking stare was still a tacit interrogation. It said, quite plainly, that it was time for me to explain myself. He was beginning to suspect, 1 felt, that his visitor was not one of his own class. I noticed, too, that there was something untamable and Ishmaelitish in his make-up, despite his general mildness of appearance.
So I threw him the cabalistic password of the Mother-Earthers—the Open Sesame of East Side social democracy that I had picked up from Gicca.
My weeks of idling about the East Side, after all, had not been without advantage. It had not been altogether wasted time. For no lover’s face at a word of endearment after quarrel could have relaxed and lighted apd changed as that mild-eyed Livonian cobbler’s face changed when the word I uttered fell on his ears. It was a key to his innermost reserves. It made me one of a brotherhood.
“What’s wrong?” he said, and this time there was no apathy in the question.
“Mutashenko!” I answered, with studied vagueness.
But I was watching his face with the yellow gaslight playing over it. I oould see that the name was not new to him. It brought no look of perplexity into his mild and troubled eyes. “I was afraid so,” he said, with equal vagueI had hoped he would be more explicit. “Has anything been said?” I asked, perplexed.
“They were here an hour ago, looking.” It seemed reasonable to assume that such search could emanate from only one quarter.
“Schmidlapp?” I interrogated.
I knew, by the man’s face, that my guess had hit the bull’s eye.
“Did he get to him?”
The man shook his head.
“I must warn him in time,” I rattled on. “How do I get up to that top floor?”
The man eyed me hesitatingly. “You can’t get up!”
“But I must!”
“They will let no one through the factory.”
“But I’ve got to get up!” I protested, wondering what he meant by the factory.
“That’s what Schmidlapp said. And he’s not up
“Does Schmidlapp know where!” I demanded.
“He thinks it’s the picture-frame factory,” was the indefinite and equally unsatisfactory response.
"Then there’s still time!” I protested.
The cobbler shrugged his shoulders. It could mean anything. M
“Why can’t you help me?” 1 asked. “If I make it worth while?”
The man showed his white teeth in a peculiarly indifferent and yet peculiarly engaging smile.
Continued on page 45
Continued, from page 20
“I am—what you say?—standing pat,” he said, in the idiom of the street. “I am ‘under the eye’.”
“Then I’ll try it alone,” I declared. The man had reseated himself at his little low stool. I was still in doubt if by any word or gesture I had betrayed myself to him.
. “You go up through the factory to get to him?” I asked again, in desperation.
He did not deny it.
“And you say he won’t see me?” I persisted.
All the man’s thought seemed wrapped up in his hammer and sole-leather.
“ His house is mined!” he said, without looking up. But beyond this disturbing laconicism I could get nothing out of him. And time was precious.
So I opened the door and looked through as though to make sure that the coast was clear. Three minutes later, I had rejoined the anxious Lefty, and was scanning the sky-line of Fifth Street.
“He said it was above a factory,” I explained as we went. “How many factories are there in this last block?”
“Here’s a moldin’ or a picture-frame factory, from the smell of the bananaoil,” said Lefty. “And two doors closer to the river’s a bum cigar-factory. Those ’re the only two.”
“Then we’ve got them!” I declared.
“At the top of that cigar-factory.”
Lefty peered up at the place, with its sullen five storied wall and weatherworn Italian sign, in open disgust.
“They’re there, and we’ve got to get them,” I declared, feeling that the end of the long trail was almost in sight.
“Well, that’s a mean place for a roundup,” said Lefty plaintively.
The Ascent to the Roof
I POSTED Davis on the corner of Avenue D, to act in the capacity of a “gaycat,” as the yeggmen would call it. Lefty I sent into the cigar-factory itself, for a guarded reconnoitering of that territory, while I circled the block, with the understanding that we should come together in fifteen minutes, at the latest, under the portico of a street-corner saloon.
My excursion about the block resulted in no solution of the difficulty. Rows of crowded tenements, shouldering close together, made up the three sides of the square of which Fifth Street, west _ of Avenue D, was the base. I saw nothing to suggest a new line of attack. Neither did I see anything to arouse my suspicions. Nothing met my gaze beyond the homely labors and pastimes of an East Side street. Nothing cropped above the surface. Nothing gave any inkling of the culminating drama that was being enacted behind such sordid and unconciliating brick walls.
I joined Lefty and Davis as they dipped casually into the gilt-porticoed saloon. I saw gloom written on the face of the little stool-pigeon.
“They’ve been handed a tip-off,” said Lefty, in little more than a whisper. “He’s got a gang of dago cigar-rollers to back him up, and you’d no more get up into that joint than you’d get into an armory.”
“But we’ve got to get up there.”
“Good heavens!” said Lefty. “He’s not only up» at the top of that whole bunch of Bolsheviks; but he’s got his upper stairway armored with a door full of gun-shells!”
“How do you know that?”
“I stumbled up into it before they could haul me down. He’s made that door into a regular machine-gun, borin’ it full of half-inch holes and pluggin’ them with loaded shells. Then he’s gone and clapped perforated boiler-plate or something like that over ’em, and ten to one he’s tapped a light-circuit, to set ’em off by electricity. That stairway’s the only way up—and he could rake it like a Gatlin’ gun!”
Davis discreetly suggested a searchwarrant and the police in force.
“A search-warrant!” scoffed Lefty, under his breath. “You might as well talk of a search warrant for a hawk in Central
I said, only too painfully
aware of the precious time we were losing. “I’m going to tackle this place from the top. I’m going to get up to that roof and work down!”
“By airship?” inquired Lefty.
“I don’t know how yet; but I’m going to get up there. I want you two to keep watch below, east and west of that cigarfactory; and if I’m not back in thirty minutes, or haven’t given you a sign, you’d better send in a general alarm and get a police cordon established. But remember, that’s only a last resort. The best way to do this thing is to do it quietly. It’s the only way, as far as I can see.”
“Make your sign a revolver-shot,” suggested Lefty. “And remember this Mutashenko’s most likely got that joint o’ his mined'.”
He called me back for a moment, as I started for the street.
“You know what you’re up against?” he asked, with a more intimate note in his customarily offhanded way ofjspeaking.
“I haven’t any choice left in this, Lefty. I’ve got to do it!”
“Go ahead,” he retorted, quite cheerily.
“And be so good as to keep Davis from following me up,” I warned the little man at ray side. “There have been times when his feelings have rather run away with him.”
“I’ll hold him off,” said Lefty, with a grin. “We’ll have some trouble of our own down here, maybe!”
My intention, on leaving the other two men, was to go to the picture-frame factory and dodge or bribe my way up to its roof. But even while I was lamenting the time this would take, a new plan came to me. It came as I turned into Lewis Street and let my glance fall on a black and grimy figure hauling a bucket of tar up to the roof of what seemed to be a feed and boarding-stable. This stable was some five or six doors north of the Fifth Street corner. Beside the curb stood a smoking tar-tank, on little iron wheels. Three or four planks, nailed together, beetled out from the roof-front. The men, obviously, were engaged in tarring the roof of that shabby-fronted boardingstable. I saw my chance, and seized it.
THE empty black bucket came swinging down just as I reached the workman’s side. I thrust a bill into his hand, and pointed to the roof.
“Pull me up, quick!” I said.
He looked at the bill, and then looked at me. He set me down at once as a generous-handed madman.
“I can’t do ut,” he said, still eyeing the bill.
“You’ve got to,” I told him.
“Phwat for?” he demanded.
“I’ve got a box-kite stranded up there,”
I told him, glibly enough.
“Then Mike’ll throw it down to yez.” “That’d ruin it. For the love of heaven, get me up.”
“I haven’t the st-ingth, annyhow,” he parried.
I repeated the movement of pressing a bill into his tar-stained hand. Then I called to a hulk of a youth overturning bales of pressed hay with a short iron hook.
“Give Tim a hand here,” I told him. He looked up, put down his hook, and came sauntering leisurely over to where we stood. I thrust my feet into the tarfouled bucket and caught the rope. A look passed between the two men, a look of amusement touched with craftiness.
“Make way for the inspecthor, Mike!” called the man who had pocketed the bill, with an indifferent grin, as the rope tightened and I swung up through the air.
“Inspecthor av phwat?” demanded the tarry figure called Mike, as he swung me in upon the narrow plank landing.
“Of light and power-wiring,” I answered, as I freed myself from the bucket.
“And phwat are yez afther?” he demanded. “There’s no wirin’ on this roof!” “But there’s going to be,” was my mendacious retort. “And here’s a dollar for your trouble.”
He took it with the utmost gravity, as though it had been well earned and long overdue.
“Don’t be side-stheppin’ on that bit av fresh roofin’,” he warned me, as he once more lowered his bucket and bawled for more tar.
! 1 was over the wall-curb befóte he could
j look around. Then quickly I crossed a I surface of sloping red-painted tin, and i climbed upon à second roof some four feet higher than the first. I kept rising in a 1 series of steps, past water-tanks and chim, ney-tops and wall-tiles, swinging around with the line of roofs as they angled off and followed the line of Fifth Street.
1 A soft spring sky of robin’s-egg blue arched over me. I could see the East River, a wide ribbon of beryl green, dulled here and there with the grays of passing ships. I could see a Greenpoint ferry circling up against the tide, north of Bushwick Inlet. The sounds from the city were muffled and far away. A sense of lonelij ness seemed to lie over all New York. I seemed to be alone in a city of sleep and ruin, as I clambered on and on, until I found my way blocked by a blind wall of red brick, ten or twelve feet in height. It held nothing up which I could clamber. There was not a trace of water-pipe or , wire or woodwork to help me out. Yet not one hundred feet beyond that wall, I knew, was the roof of the Italian cigarI factory—the roof where my journey would
I leaned against that unlooked-for parapet and studied the situation. I had not come prepared for an escalade. And I might have found no way out of the dilemma had I not, after scrambling inquisi; tively back over half a dozen roofs, stumbled across eight feet of rusted and ! discarded fire-escape stowed in under the I shadow of a wall-curb. It taxed my strength i to lift this cumbersome ironwork, but I ! succeeded in getting it to the blank wall and resting it against the bricks. Even then I found it necessary to exercise the greatest caution in mounting that precarious scaling ladder, for many of the rods were all but rusted out, and the entire fabric was perilously loose-jointed and unstable.
But it got me up and over to the next roof, upon the highest point of the skyline along the south side of the block.
ON SECOND thoughts, I stopped and leaned back over the wall-end, drawing the rickety fire-escape section up after me. I felt as alone as a sailor wrecked on a South Pacific island. Nothing was in sight, outside of a chimney-top or two, a saddle-backed wall-coping, a flat stretch of tinned roof. I noticed that one wide oval of this roof was worn through. This discovery puzzled me at first, until I saw that the tin had been eroded by the passing to and fro of restless feet. In the centre of this strange oval I noticed a transom, opening like the bulkhead of a ship over a flat deck. The roof, apparently, had been used as a place of exercise, for many weeks.
I tiptoed over to the transom, and examined it minutely. It was locked down from the inside, I discovered, but years of exposure had left its two hinges well rusted about the screw-heads. So I tiptoed back to my section of fire-escape, and wrenched free one of the rods. Then I made my way quietly back to the tran-
Before I ventured on my next move, I took my revolver from my hip pocket and dropped it into the side pocket of my coat. Then cautiously I inserted the end of my rusted iron rod under the transom-hinge, and gently pried it free. This operation I repeated with the second hinge. Then slowly and guardedly I lifted on the transom-door, to make sure that it would come away without undue resistance.
It took considerable force to strain the lock-hasp; but in the end it came, and without any loud report. I restored the door to its place, and dropped to my hands and knees, pressing an ear against its tinned ! surface. I could not detect anything sus! picious. There was, as far as I could make 1 out, not a sound or a movement below.
Then I lifted the door entirely away,
1 and waited, scarcely breathing, wondering : if the volcano I was uncovering was to 1 prove extinct or active.
But nothing broke the silence; nothing revealed itself. So I leaned in over the open transom, inch by inch, prepared to draw back at the first sign of danger.
No danger manifested itself, however. I [leered down into a dark and narrow hall, as cramped as a well, out of which opened a door covered with sheet-iron. An iron : ladder, from the transom side, led almost ' to the foot of this door. But otherwise the little room was bald and empty.
I watched that iron-sheeted door for » minute or two, studiously. Then slowy I lowered myself through the transom. :arefully replacing the covering as I did so, eaving the place in utter darkness.
I went down the ladder, cautiously, step by step, until my exploring toe came n contact with the wooden boards of the loor. Then I took out my revolver, ;urned to the door, and listened for an>ther minute or two.
As I did so a faint sound broke on my ;ar. It reminded, me, at first, of the merry apping of a hungry woodpecker. It ¡ounded like a dozen little hammers playng on a dozen muffled anvils. It reminded ne of something I had passed through jefore—of some moment similar to the noment before me.
It all camé to me in a flash. It was the »und of a typewriter to which I was listening. It was the same muffled and netallic staccato I had heard as I stood mtside the locked door of Cono di Marco, tnd something suggested to me that the ame fingers were striking on those same ceys. Then I heard a canary sing unacpectedly, incongruously, and a woman’s mice speaking to it. Some instinct, as »mpelling as vision itself, told me that he woman who had spoken—the woman n the next room—was Elvira Sabouroff.
We were together under the same roof. >he was there before me, with nothing but . door between us. The tangle of uncerainty had at last come to its solution.
My work was not over; my danger was lot yet a thing of the past. But the long ,nd seemingly hopeless trail, with all its ilind gropings and unlooked-for turnings, iad come to an end.
CHAPTER XLVI The Supreme Demand
r TOOK a deep breath, and turned the L handle of the door that stood between g. I turned it slowly and noiselessly, olding it back to soften any click of the ¿eased latch as it opened. I could hear he canary still singing; the sound of the Slickly tapping keys did not cease.
I opened the door, back and out from íe, quite as cautiously; for I was still in oubt as to what might face me in that unnown room. And I wanted to be on the ife side.
I stepped inside quietly, with my back > the wall, and the door still half-open, he sound of the typewriter went on ithout interruption. In front of me sat lvira bent over her work. We were one in the room.
I dropped my revolver back into my de pocket, somehow a little ashamed of But I still stood there, watching the ornan in front of me, studying the face jnt low over the little machine that had lunded so like the drumming of a hungry oodpecker, still rising and falling in its ;tle spurts of speed.
She sat at a plain deal table, covered ith a litter of papers, with here and there book of reference, a blue-print or two, id a sprinkling of yellow-bound pamllets. On the floor lay a large wallap, unrolled, as though recently conilted. To the right of the table were two gh windows, with the shades drawn up the top. In one of these windows hung bird-cage. In the other stood a row of itted plants. There was little furniture the room, which was almost jail-like in ; baldness. And yet it carried a persisnt sense of cheeriness; whether it was the nary, tàe strong spring light from the ten window-squares, or the valiant row I potted flowers—I could not say.
But my eyes kept returning to the girl mt over the typewriter. I could see the !rk hair parted plainly in the middle, living a straight white line back to where [coiled and massed in a heavy crown. I did see the familiar soft oval of the face, th the tender hollow under either cheekIne, the hollow that had always given to |r face its impalpable yet persistent note tragedy. I could see the translucent llor of the skin, with its strange unrglow of warmth; like ivory played on some pale rose light, so pale as to be nost imperceptible. I could see the es of the mouth, delicate, sensitive, p not without their touch of audacity;
) wistf«l to be youthful, too softly rved to be ascetic; humanized by the jgested weakness of the under lip, that d the habit of squaring itself, in an al>6t childlike movement, when it framed Mf for speech. I, could not see her ÍS; yet I seemed to feel their presence,
as the essential culmination of the luminous vitality that crowned the entire face. And I could see that it was a face on which peace rested ; yet peace, I felt, achieved only ! through abnegation.
She looked up suddenly, when1!I was least expecting to see her move; her | eyes, as they rested on me, widened slowly. ; I raised a hand to silence her; for I thought ¡ at first that she was about to cry out.
“You!” she murmured, under her breath, turning white to the very lips, until her hair looked blue-black against the pallor of her face. “You!”
So motionless did she sit that for a moment or two she seemed more like a Milanese Campo Santo figure than like a living and breathing woman.
I shut the door and stepped out to the middle of the room.
She did not move, but her eyes followed me. Then she seemed to awaken. She started up, with a quick side-glance at the inner door.
“Why are you here?” she asked. The mere fact that she spoke in little more than a whisper warned me that I was still in the midst of danger, that there were still obstacles to be overcome.
“Why are you here?” she repeated, crossing to the inner door and standing with her back to it.
“I have come for you,” I told her. The words seemed inadequate, even as I uttered them; they seemed bald and commonplace. They seemed to express nothing, when there remained so much to be said.
“For me?” she repeated.
“I cannot go with you,” she said quietly, her eyes still studying mine.
“You must come,” I told her, wondering at the unhappiness, the wordless sense of rebellion that welled up in her face.
“That is impossible,” was her reply, uttered as quietly as before. “And you must not stay here. You don’t know the danger you are facing.”
“You are facing greater danger,” I warned her. “And this is more than a matter of expediency. I have something to explain—something I must explain. Can’t you lock that door?”
HER fingers groped for the key, though her puzzled eyes were still on mine. I saw the expression in them suddenly change; the wonder and perplexity in them died out, and fear leaped into them.
“Quick!” she whispered, motioning toward the door through which I had entered. “Quick—or it will be too late!” “But I must talk with you.”
“Yes, later,” she gasped. “But you must not be seen here. Quick!”
I backed through the door and closed it after me. A moment later I heard the sound of footsteps on a bare floor, and then a door opened and closed. Then came the quick murmur of voices—the rich, muffled tones of the woman; the harsh, throaty, and almost guttural notes of a man, speaking in a tongue which I could not decipher, speaking hurriedly, impatiently, almost dictatorially.
I heard the steps pass out through the door again, the slam of the door, and then the uneven tapping of the typewriter’s keys. I listened for a moment, and then stepped back into the room. A thin veil of cigarette smoke still hung in the air;
I knew, by the aroma, that it was Russian tobacco.
I crossed straight to the inner door and turned the key in its lock. Elvira watched me with troubled and questioning eyes.
“Why have you followed me here?” she asked, almost defiantly.
“Don’t you know?” I asked in turn, crossing the room to where she sat.
“No, I do not. All I know is that you are making it dangerous for yourself, and doubly dangerous for me. Why—why have you come here?”
“I have come for you.”
“Because I love you—because I have always loved you, and always will love you!”
I bent over her—defiantly, almost—as I said it. Her face was quite close to mine; her eyes were looking up into mine. But her face was of the color of paper, as cold and dead as ashes. Yet I could see by the heaving of her bosom that her breath was coming in hurried gasps.
“You have no right to say that to me!” she whispered at last. “You need not have come for that!”
“I had to come for that—so that you would understand.”
She was on her feet now, facing me.
“It’s you who do not understand. You do not know where you are, what this place is, what being discovered here would mean to you!”
“I understand everything perfectly.
I know what is here; I know why you are here. And I know why you must not stay here. Yes, don’t stop me. I know Mutashenko and all his story. I know what be is, and what he intends to do. I know why you are with him, and what your work with him is. And I know what the end of it will be!”
She gave no notice to my implication of impending danger. It must have been an old story to her.
“Then why have you followed me here, if you know all this?” she demanded, with the first touch of resentment in her tones. “Why are you here, against my wish? Why are you planning to rob me of what happiness I may have found in my work? Why do you wish, for the second time, to make me miserable?”
“Wait!” I said, forcing myself to calmness. “This means too much to me to let foolish pride come between us. I’ll answer your question, but you must first answer one of mine.”
“What is it?” she asked.
“Why did you drop out of my life the way you did?”
She did not look at me this time, and I could see the effort it cost her to frame her
“Your life was full,” she answered, a little bitterly.
“Not until you came into it!” I cried.
“It meant nothing to you,” she went on, in her studied monotone. “It was— it meant everything to me. It wasn’t until I realized how little it meant to you that I went.”
“What made you realize that? I mean, what made you think that?”
She looked at me now, and if the tones of her voice had been disturbed and bitter, the calm wistfulness of her great eyes now doubly atoned for it.
“I had been blind and very foolish. It was pointed out to me by some one who could judge better than I did.”
SHE came to a stop, and I caught up the thread of her explanation.
“It was Harvey Stillwell,” I cried. “Hush!” she said, in alarm, with a terrified glance toward the locked door.
“It was Natalie Stillwell’s brother who came to you,” I went on, “and gave you to understand that I had obligations elsewhere—that you and I could never be friends—that I was not fit for you!”
“No,” she corrected, with her courageous determination to have the whole truth out once and for all. “It was that I was not fit for you!”
“Then that’s as easily answered as the other. The fact that I’m here, that I’ve found you, is answer enough. The fact that Natalie Stillwell is marrying another man is still further answer. It means that I’ve come for you. It means that I will not go away without you.”
The canary swinging in the window sang and trilled for a little time. Elvira did not answer. I stepped nearer to her, but she drew away from me.
“It’s too late,” she said, with one hand on the back of her chair, speaking slowly, yet with a tremolo of disquieting feeling in her voice. “I must finish my work here with Mutashenko. He needs me. Then I am to go back home—back to Europe. There’s work for me there—oh, so much work!”
I looked at the slender figure so apparently ill equipped for struggle; at the girlishly sloping shoulders; at the shadowy eyes that carried their indefinable sense of feminine fragility—and the sheer injustice of it all made me reckless.
“Are you so essential to these people?”
She stopped me with a gesture, before I could go on.
“Yes, if I must tell you, I am essential to these people. Mutashenko is helpless without me. His wife is ill; she may be dying. He can not carry out his work alone, by himself. He believes himself to lie the Trumpet of God — he calls himself the Trumpet of God.”
“Not the Hammer, this time?” I scoffed. But the woman before me ignored my interruption.
“And he is right, in a way. He has a great message to deliver to his people. But he has broken his health—they have broken his health. He needs me. It is
not so much duty on my part as pity— for my own people in misfortune.”
“But no matter how you pity them, you can’t stay with them. It’s known, even now, where he’s hiding. This, very building is being watched, even while we stand here talking.”
“That doesn’t disturb me. I’m not a criminal or a fugitive.”
“But you are co-operating with a fugitive—a fugitive whose extradition papers are even now made out. That means that he will be deported, sent back to Russia — and what follows that, you know.”
She did not seem as disturbed as I had expected. She did not even seem surprised. She stood, in deep thought, for a moment or two.
“Are you sure of this?” she said.
“I am sure of it,” I told her.
“He will never be taken alive,” she murmured, as though to herself. The extent of her dilemma seemed to be coming home to her slowly, minute by minute.
“That is why you must come with me— now, at once, when we can still get away,”
I tried to explain to her.
“Why must I go with you?” she asked.. looking at me as though she had seen me for the first time.
“Because I want you. Because I need you more than this man Mutashenko does, or any of his kind. Because I love you!” “And where would we go?” she asked, in her dead monotone.
“Wherever you say—anywhere—so long as you come with me—so long as youmarry me!”
She fell back a step or two.
“Marry you!” she said, in a sharp soprano, unlike her natural voice.
“Marry me—yes. Why not marry me?” She covered her face with her hands and stood there, as though in torture,, swaying a little unsteadily. I tried to. take her hands from her face. Then she looked up, once more white to thevery lips.
“But me—you couldn’t marry me. You couldn’t marry me as I am?”
“Just as you are!”
“I love you! I have always loved you!” “No—no!” she repeated in some strangeagony of spirit, as she groped blindly for the back of the chair. I took her gropinghand in mine, and held it there.
“I love you!” I repeated inadequately, foolishly. I could see her trembling under lip square itself, as though she were about to speak; but she said nothing. She stood there with her troubled eyes staring into mine, perplexed, almost stunned. I looked back at her, feeling my throat constrict, I am not an emotional man; I have looked on a few strange tragedies in my day, and on brutal sights, and have not been moved. It almost humiliated me to feel the hot tears running down my face.
“I want to take you away from ali this,” I said, putting out my arms to her hungrily, until my hands rested on her shoulders. “I want to make your life what it ought to be. I want to make you happy. I love you!”
HER head sank low as she stood before me, and I could feel her body shaking with a gush of sobbing. She did not step toward me. I did not draw her closer. But our two relaxed and weary and unhappy bodies seemed to move and merge together, as quietly as two streams meeting and mingling. She was in mvarms, the tears still on her face, her bodystill shaking, her trembling lips still distorted as though with pain. She was inmy arms, her wet face turned up to mine, and all the precious warmth and weight of her clinging to me.
“I know it’s wrong—it's wrong—but. I have always loved you!” she was saying.
I held her there, almost drowsy with the mounting anesthesia of happiness,, murmuring, as I pushed back the tumbled hair from her forehead: “I love you! I love you!”
Then her arms closed above me; they seemed to surround and enfold me likewings; they seemed to weigh me down,, until my face was close above her upturned face—above the trembling scarlet lips-, that whispered so weakly: “I love you!” Her eyelids drooped over her shadowyeyes, and as I held her there our lips-, touched and met and clung together, and! the world and time and space were forgotten.
“It’s wrong," she murmured wearily, half-heartedly, altogether happily.
“Love is never wrong!” I told her. holding her head back so that I could see into her eyes.
“Never?” she questioned.
I did not answer that question ; for even as she spoke there came to our ears the sound of a sharp and peremptory knockon the locked door behind us, followed by the crash of a great blow.
CHAPTER XLVII The Enemy Intervenes
I HAD no time to turn. My instinctive movement was to thrust Elvira behind me, to stand between her and possible danger. But it was already too late for this. There was the sound of a second crash before I could move, and the door swung back with a shattered lock.
Through it stepped one of the strangest figures I have ever looked upon. It was that of a leather-belted, thickset, black-whiskered man, in grotesquely loose trousers and a blue flannel snirt on which shone mother-of-pearl buttons, with a brightness that seemed almost incandescent against their dark background.
The first impress this figure gave me was that of a huge form in some strange process of deliquescence. The skin seemed to cover his frame as loosely and unevenlyas a suit of clothes hangs over a t o diminutive tailor’s dummy. The blackness of the bushy and almost patriarchal beard accentuated the cadaverous pallor of the man’s skin. On his face I could see anger and fear and distrust. His eyes in fact looked like those of a hare, with their high-arching brows above and their curving yellow pouches below, leaving a number of concentric lines about them, like the lines of a target. . Between them stood a flat cartilaginous nose with distending nostrils.
I noticed, for the first time, that the man was holding a long-barrelled revolver in his hand—a sinister weapon, of a make once much used on the Continent for dueling.
The intruder, I knew, was Mutashenko.
I could not see much about the man to admire.
What I liked least of all was that blackbarrelled revolver with which he began to gesticulate as he broke into a gabble of some unknown tongue. I assumed the talk to be Russian, but I had no way of making sure. It did not escape me, though, that as he advanced into the room Elvira changed her position so that she stood between us. And as she stood confronting him, some argument which I could not comprehend was shuttlecocked back and forth between them. Some spirit of his vehemence seemed to impart itself to her as they carried on that verbal warfare; for I could see the rise and play of a new fire in her eyes. Her replies became more and more tempestuous; Mutashenko's charges seemed to grow more and more passionate.
“What is it?” I demanded; for I preferred, if there was fighting to be done, to be a party to it.
She answered me with nothing more than a quickly upthrust hand, as though to wave me out of the action, as she faced Mutashenko and flashed out her retorts at him—almost in defiance now, it seemed to me.
“What are you cackling about, anyway?” I demanded of Mutashenko.
He paid no attention to my question, but still harried and shouted at the woman in front of me.
She fell back, until her body was almost pressed against mine. I saw her hands clasp and unclasp in what was a little wringing motion, as though utter terror had taken possession of her. It was then I decided that the time for me to act had arrived.
“He will not believe me!” cried Elvira, in despair, as I drew her to one side and stepped forward.
As I did so, I saw Mutashenko’s face harden and change. Before I could comprehend his intention, his hand swung forward and up, and the villainous blackbarrelled thing in his hand flashed out its stab of flame.
To be concluded.