LADY OF VENTURES
DALLAS PATON hesitated as he caught sight of a man's figure on the porch. He made his way slowly up the long walk that led to his uncle's dignified home in a Montreal suburb, with the half formed idea of letting the visitor gain entry before him. But as he drew nearer, he distinctly saw the man on the porch twice stretch a tentative hand toward the door-bell.. and twice draw back without ringing. With face pressed close to the plate glass panel, he tried to peer past the shrouding curtains of heavy lace.
So engrossed was he that he did not notice the approach of the other. “This is Mr. Henry Paton’s residence,” Paton informed him as he mounted the steps. The man he addressed made no answer; but with a start drew hastily back out of reach of the shaft of light from the hall. “What number are you looking for?” continued Paton. “Perhaps I can tell you where to find it.” The next moment, to his astonishment, he was alone on the porch; the figure in the shadow had dashed down the steps and across the lawn, and had been swallowed up in the gathering darkness.
Paton opened the door with the latchkey that his Aunt Julia had given him on his first coming to the city three months before, not without a certain sense of apprehension. It wfas not yet ten o’clock, he knew, yet he noticed with surprise that the house seemed to be closed for the night. However the familiarity of the surroundings served to lull his sense of apprehension into one of contentment and well-being. They were pleasant surroundings that spoke to him of happy associations. He had just returned from his first trip home since his promotion to the head office—a promotion wrhich had brought him pleasure tinctured with regret, since it meant leaving his home city with its accustomed surroundings. However Paton had an uncle who had moved to Montreal many years ago. He had never seen him before, but on looking him up, Paton discovered,
in addition to his uncle, a delightful family, consisting of his uncle’s wife and her three nieces; and his Aunt Julia had insisted on his accepting the hospitality of their home at least until he had time to look arcund and pick a suitable bachelor apartment.
On pulling aside the curtains which draped the library door, Paton found some evidence of occupancy at last. A W'ood-fire burned on the wide hearth, and an amber-shaded floor-lamp beside it made a pool of gold on the shining floor. Apart from the splash of scarlet and gold made by the flames and the lamplight, the place was a dusk of velvet shadows stabbed with gleams of reflected light. Not until he came into the room did he see the girl on the floor in front of the fireplace, an open book before her.
“Some reception!” Paton rebuked the intent reader, with an assumed plaintiveness masking a real disappointment. It was so different from the home-coming he had been picturing—dignified Aunt Julia coming forward to welcome him affectionately; Sybil giving him her cool hand with a tantalizing glance from long, lovely eyes;
Viva, the fresh-lipped, exquisite youngest, frankly rejoicing at his return.
The girl on the floor sat up quickly.
Her slim body was wrapped in a gorgeous kimona of a rich, peculiar blue, patterned with strange greens and embroidered in tarnished metals.
Thick braids of yellow-brown hair fell on either side a face broad-browed, grey-eyed, but without the radiant loveliness her sisters possessed.
“Oh!” said Paton with a tinge of embarrassment. “I thought you were Sybil or Viva!” Gilda Frayne had not followed the others in the open adulation that had been his, since he had come to know the family; and, perversely enough, Paton had always felt more nettled at the lack of Gilda’s approbation than pleasure in her sisters’.
“Uncle Henry has taken Aunt Julia and the girls to a ball at the Windsor,” Gilda explained. “They weren’t expecting you till to-morrow.”
“I hurried back a day earlier than I had planned... .1 carried a picture in my mind of Aunt Julia and Sybil and Viva waving farewells to me; and I was looking forward to a triumphal return in the same fashion.”
“And you find instead a dark house, and no one to greet you but Gilda. No bands at the station, no fireworks!” She shook her tawny head commiseratingly.
Paton laughed, conscious of an absurd exhilaration at her tardy and sparing friendliness. “Aunt Julia and your sisters have spoiled me,
I’m afraid. But you never troubled even to say goodby to me!” he accused pointedly.
Gilda’s mellow laugh intrigued Paton with its hint of surprising, delightful qualities behind it. “I didn’t think you’d notice I wasn’t there,” she declared.
“How is it they’ve left you behind,
Cinderella?” he asked.
“I hate balls. Besides, I’d spoil the picture; and Nunkie is so proud of his womenfolk! Fancy drab-haired, mousy Gilda following such an imposing pair as Uncle Henry and Aunt Julia into the scene of splendor between the regal Sybil and Viva the fay!”
“You look neither drab nor mousy just now,” Paton corrected. “You might easily be a maharani in her robes of state.”
“Aunt Julia would faint if she caught me downstairs in this,” confessed Gilda. “She doesn’t even know I have it.”
“Evidently ‘mousy Gilda’ has another sid from the one generally on exhibition,” Paton commented drily.
Gilda laughed gaily. “You’re right,” she acknowledged. “At heart I’ve a passion for color. The spectacular appeals to me. I thrill to the melodramatic.”
“So this sumptuous robe symbolizes a passion for high adventure! Are you never tempted to go in search of it?” asked Paton.
“Tempted! How I’ve longed to have two selves!— one to leave at home—to help Aunt Julia and find Uncle Henry’s slippers and spectacles for him. And another.. but I don’t know why I’m telling you all this!”
“Oh, I too have burned candles on the altar of the ‘Lady of Ventures!’ ” Paton smiled into her surprised eyes as he quoted:
“...............Your colors play,
“Lady of Ventures, grave or gay,
“Over the regions of Romcnce.”
TT W AS an hour for confidences. The encompassing
darkness and the mellow radiance of the spot where they sat like castaways on a fairy isle in a sea of shadows, fostered an intimacy that grew like some magic plant. Paton felt a lively pleasure that she trusted him, this scornful, self-contained Gilda; and eagerly gave her back confidence for confidence. Young longings, half-forgotten boyish dreams, all the arcana of a reticent, sensitive youth, resurged in response to her quick sympathy.
Paton smiled at the whimsical curl of Gilda’s mouth as she spoke of her Aunt Julia. “Sybil and Viva have always felt we owe her so much—you know she took us in, three little pauper orphans.”
“Her own brother’s children,” Paton commented.
“I’ve always looked at it as a debt,” she broke in,
with a flash of anger, “it was through Uncle Henry’s investments that Father’s money was lost. Mother wouldn’t even ask him and Aunt Julia to the funeral when Father died. The person who has all my gratitude,” she continued, breathlessly, “is an old French-Canadian neighbor—we lived among the poor people in the East End after Father lost his money and quarreled with Uncle Henry. We had no claim on Madame Morin— but it was in her arms that Mother wept when Father died. It was she who took care of Mother when she fell ill; and then, when we were motherless little beggars, none of us old enough to be anything but a care,she took us home to live with her. She had enough to lock after with her three orphaned grandchildren, but everything she had she shared with us, food, shelter, love. It’s ‘M’mère’ Morin I’m grateful to!”
She stopped with a little shrug, as though deprecating the passion with which she had spoken. In a moment she continued in a calmer tone:
“When Uncle Henry and Aunt Julia came back from abroad and heard that Mother was dead, they came for us at once. And Aunt Julia would never sanction our going back to see Madame Morin, after all her kindness. I did go back, but they had moved. Grandfather Morin had died, and his little cobbler’s shop was closed.. . .It was quite by chance I ran across the family a year ago.” “Through your social service work,I suppose?”
COMPLETE IN THIS ISSUE
IN THIS ISSUE vve are publishing complete lAnn Gay’s novelette, ‘‘Lady of Ventures.” Mystery and daring and suspense surround the figure of the young Montreal girl in this story, and make it of breathless interest. This story is published complete in accordance with a policy adopted of giving our readers, who may not be partial to continued fiction, the maximum of reading matter. In the October 1st issue we expect to publish another novelette, and one that is unique of its kind. It is called ‘‘Paganini’s Guitar” and is by Santé Bargellini. We believe our readers will agree that it is one of the most striking stories ever published in a Canadian magazine.
and then, without waiting for an answer, “Do you like settlement work?”
“I hate it,” confessed Gilda. “I don’t like to see people poor and unhappy. And I’m just as sorry for the bad ones as the others.” “I noticed how you horrified Uncle Henry one day by standing up for some rascal the police were after,” laughed Paton.
“Uncle Henry wants to see everyone who makes the least mistake punished. He doesn’t believe in giving them another chance.” “He’s quite right! I’ve no patience with you theorists who believe in coddling criminals. Jail’s the place for all that type. If they insist on breaking the law, let them pay! I want to see every lawbreaker get a good stiff sentence—and he would if I had anything to say!”
I’M NOT surprised¡that you should think that way, because you are young, and I suppose it’s a part of youth to be intolerant; they don’t see all that it means. But with Uncle it is different. He’s older, he hasn’t the same excuse for intolerance. Even though he does live in comfort he ought to be able to see things, just a little, from the other side. It isn’t only the man who suffers. There is always some one to suffer more.”
“They’ll do that anyway, and they are generally better off with the man out of the way.”
“I don’t know—I saw a man arrested once. It was the second day I was at the settlement. I nearly fainted. I suppose he had, as you say, deserved it. But I cculdn’t help wishing, all the same, that it didn’t have to be.”
“I don’t see how you’ve stuck to that work so. Viva told me you’ve been connected with the Kenilworth Settlement for over a year.”
Gilda blushed. “It gives me a chance to get into town every day.”
“And in town anything may happen!—I see, Lady of Ventures! But I hope that your work does not take all your time, and that the ventures may not be too numerous; for I want Aunt Julia to bring you and your sisters to have tea in my apartment. Perhaps you did not know that I had achieved the importance of having an apartment all of my own. I rented it furnished just before I started on my trip.
“I’m going to have interesting neighbors—I notice a pair of osteopaths and a beauty-specialist on my floor; and my next neighbor—we share the same fire-escape is a very exclusive clairvoyant! You’ve heard of ‘Yolana’? I’ve been told she gets enormous fees; and it’s as hard to get an appointment with her as with royalty.” “Why—you must mean the Arcade Apartments!.... That’s... .that’s where Russell Powell lives.”
“I’m just across the hall from him. I didn’t know you knew Powell.”
“Oh, yes, I have known him for a very long time, since I was a very little girl. We used to be great friends even when we grew up. He married when he was very young. I suppose you know that. It didn’t turn out very well. It wasn’t his fault. It was just a mistake that came pretty nearly being a tragedy. He had to divorce his wife in the end. Of course after that Uncle Henry made it quite plain that he was not welcome here* He seemed to look on it as something criminal, though he had done nothing wrong. You know what he thinks of criminals. Perhaps you agree with him in regard to Russell Powell too. Uncle Henry, as senior churchwarden of St. Michael’s-and-All-Angels’, couldn’t countenance a divorced man calling on his nieces.”
“That reminds me of another caller who seemed uncertain of his welcome,” laughed Paton, avoiding the implied challenge of her words. As he went on to tell her of the man he had surprised at the door, Gilda’s eyes grew suddenly disturbed. A peal of the bell interrupted him.
“I suppose the servants are all in bed. I’ll go, Gilds* That can’t be our people back already?” But Gilda, with a slender, peremptory hand motioned him back.
As he stood in front of the fire awaiting her return, he felt a new and tingling interçst in life. How Gilda had glowed with gratitude to the old neighbor who had beeft
so kind! How quick she was to understand, to sympathize!
He realized with a start that some minutes had passed since Gilda had gone to the door. He went into the hall. As he did so the door was quickly closed. “It was just a man who had made a mistake in the house,” Gilda explained........There was something in her voice,
rather than her averted eyes, that left Paton with an impression of uncertainty. There was no reason why she should be telling anything but the truth, and yet the mistake in a house did not require long explanations. Still less did it justify that impression of strangeness that he had noted, or her willingness to go to the door in her gay kimona. He was still more surprised when she wished him a hurried goodnight, and, before he had time to say a word, went upstairs to her room.
IT WAS with a certain sense of pique that Paton returned to the library, and seating himself before the fire picked up a book and began idly thumbing its pages. For some time the strange actions of the girl held his attention, and he tried to look back over what had been said to see if it would give any clue to her strange actions, and sudden departure. Then a sentence in the book caught his attention. The clock on the stairs struck
twelve, half past, one o’clock, another half hour----He
was sunk deep in his story and read on and on. A noise somewhere nearby caused him to drop his book quickly—a cry, slight, instantly suppressed—the servants were lodged on an upper floor, he knew; so it must have come from Gilda’s room.
Only silence answered his rap at her door. There had been a sound of someone moving just before he knocked; but all was quiet as he listened.
“Gilda!” he called.
A pause, then Gilda answered without opening the door.
“What do you want, Dal las?”
“Are you ill?”
“No, I am all right.
“I was sure I heard you cry out. I thought you called me.”
Another pause. Then Gilda spoke, her voice faintly ironical, yet to Patom’s anxious ears the amusement it suggested sounded forced. “Go back to bed,
Dallas! You’ve been dreaming.”
“I’ve been reading. Y ou're sure there’s nothing wrong? Can’t you slip on that wonderful kimona and open the door just a minute, so I’ll know you're all right?”
Gilda spoke promptly now, and decisively. “Don’t be silly, Dallas! Go to bed.”
“I beg your pardon,” said Paton stiffly. “I certainly thought I heard you call out.”
HE HAD scarcely reached his own room when there came the sound of overturned furniture, the slam of a swinging window, the violent hubbub of a barking dog. Through the window at which he had paused, Paton saw by the light of the streetlamp the big mastiff that guarded the house at night follow a fleeing figure across the garden. Inside all was quiet.. None of the servants, whose rooms were at the back of the house, seemed to have roused.
Paton rushed down the hall. The silence in Gilda’s room was more alarming
than any noise could have been. When she did not respond to his impatient rapping, Paton shook the doorhandle in his alarm.
“Answer me, Gilda!” he ordered. If the door was locked, he would break it open, he determined grimly as he called to her again....
The knob yielded easily to his touch. The lights were on, and a single glance showed why Gilda had not answered. An armchair was upturned beside an open window; and on the floor, very white and childish in the midst of swirling folds of vivid blue, lay Gilda. Her eyelids fluttered as Paton picked her up and she spoke faintly.
“He didn’t mean....” she breathed; then her head fell back once more.
Paton hesitated, not knowing whether it was safe to leave her while he went to rouse the stout,helpful, middleaged cook. As he waited, her faintness passed, and Gilda opened her eyes.
“I heard you fall,” explained Paton. “I didn’t wait to call anyone, but came as quickly as I could. I’ll go and wake Lizzie.” He turned to leave the room, pride preventing his asking for any explanation she did not volunteer.
“Dallas!” she called, with faint insistence.
“Yes?’* He turned in the doorway and waited.
“Don’t get Lizzie—or anyone. I’m all right. Please, Dallas!”
“But you’re hurt!”
“No, I’m not. Lizzie would tell Aunt Julia; and I
don’t want her to know. She has always been so frightened of burglars ”
“It was a burglar, was it?” asked Paton.
“Of course!” Gilda’s eyes were wide and childlike. “I heard someone at my window, so I jumped out of bed and started for the door. But I fell over the chair. There’s no need for anyone to know. It would worry Aunt Julia awfully; and I’d never hear the end of it. She said when I wanted to start at the settlement, I’d have every burglar in the city running out here.”
“Your hand is bleeding,” observed Paton. “I’d like to get hold of the fellow who hurt you like this. Was he trying to take something from you? Did he carry off anything?”
“Nothing—nothing at all!” replied Gilda hastily. She looked at him from under her lashes, and a faint pink rose in her face as she spoke.
“What was he like?” asked Paton.
“A big, burly man—quite old.”
THE man Paton had seen running across the lawn had been slender, with the agile limbs of youth. Gilda of the candid eyes and mendacious tongue, tender-hearted Gilda, who turned faint at seeing a man arrested, and who would love all rogues into being good instead of punishing them for their misdeeds, was doing her best to shield the fellow, Paton was convinced. He frowned at the jagged tear across her small, swollen hand.
“What is it, Dallas?” asked Gilda.
He laughed. “Shall I be frank? I was thinking you’re the most outrageous little prevaricator I’ve ever met. I think that one of your slum-protégés showed his gratitude by coming out to rob you—or possibly he picked your home merely by accident. Instead of calling for help my brave Lady of Ventures tries to reform the burglar; or in any case to save him from well-deserved punishment. I ought to have telephoned the police immediately. It may not be too late yet.”
Gilda’s eyes grew wide and dark. “Police! Oh, Dallas! You wouldn’t—you mustn’t! Of course you’re right, but just this once, Dallas? If I ask you not to? Aunt Julia will fuss so.”
“I won’t blame her a bit,” said Paton inexorably.
Gilda leaned toward him coaxingly. “Promise you won’t say a word about it to anyone, Dallas,” she cajoled. “Please! Let’s have it just for our own secret—to mark the beginning of our being real friends?”
“All right, I promise; but I do so under duress, you understand,” Paton yielded laughingly.
Something with a dull gleam lay on the rug. Still laughing, Paton bent to pick it up.... a few inches of gold chain with a locket attached—a locket that did not open, however —a slender, elongated oval of unpolished gold, devoid of ornamentation except for a bossy edge of exquisite craftsmanship.. .. Paton’s glance left the trinket to seek Gilda’s face. She was looking at the object in his hand with an expression which seemed equally embarrassment and relief.
The muttered growlings of Rough, who had been vigorously cursing all marauders and night prowlers, beneath (¡¡Ida’s window. changed to joyous barks of welcome. “Down, Rough! Down, good dog!” said a masculine voice.
"Uncle Henry!” whispered Gilda. “They’re home!” Footsteps on the porch.
The hall-door opened and shut. A fluttering of frocks, the chirping of unwearied young voices, mingled with Aunt Julia’s more tired voice and Uncle Henry’s bluff tones, announced the return of the revellers.
“Go quickly, Dallas!” urged Gilda. “Suppose they find you here!”
“But I don’t like to sneak out asif there were anything to be ashamed of,” Baton remonstrated. “We’ll just tell them what’s happened.”
"Hush! They’ll hear you! You promised, Dallas! You said you wouldn’t tell. Hurry before they come. Hurry!”
Driven by the importunity of her voice, Baton obeyed. He hesitated, undecided whether to leave greetings for the morning; or to go down at once. The latter course seemed wiser.
“Dallas!” cried Viva, clapping her hands with a little squeal of delight.
“Well, well, my lad. Glad to see you; glad to see you!” said Uncle Henry.
“Welcome back, my dear boy!” cooed Aunt Julia. On one side of her,
Viva dimpled a welcome. On the other,
Sybil greeted him with the slow, smiling, provocative glance he had expected. It was the picture he had looked forward to all through the day’s tiresome journey.... and it no longer held any interest. His thoughts went back to a gray-eyed girl with tawny braids trailing their ochre over a silken kimona of an impossiblygorgeous blue, flowered with strange greens, and purfled with threads of tarnished silver and gold—fit symbol of the colorful dreams thronging behind her inscrutable eyes.
“ ‘/’re seen you..pass tiptoe, and beckon me, 0 Lady of Ventures!’ ” he quoted to himself.
AT BREAKFAST-TABLE next morning, Paton told them about the apartment he had taken, and of his intention to move in at once. Viva and Sybil, departing from their usual custom, had come down to breakfast,
Aunt Julia made a point of always pouring Uncle Henry’s coffee. Gilda alone was a laggard. They were all prettily reproachful at his leaving.
“I’ll be back so often you’ll be tired of seeing me,” he assured them. “But as I have to go back to the office every evening just now, it’s better for me to live in town.” His uncle had already gone out to the waiting car when Paton came downstairs with his bag. Rough was nosing something caught in a syringa bush at the edge of the verandah when Paton passed. He wagged a cheerful morning greeting to Paton, but could not spare the time to look up from his prize.
“You’d better take your bone to the back of the house before Uncle Henry sees you, Rough,” warned Paton. His casual glance fell on the thing Rough was pawing— an oblong box-shaped object. With a sudden thought, he looked up at the bedroom windows... .Gilda’s windows were directly above the syringa bush, which showed several crushed and broken branches. Gilda’s nocturnal visitor, sliding hastily down a pillar, had fallen into the bush, dropping the box he was carrying off; and had been prevented from retrieving it by the arrival of Rough.
The' box was surprisingly heavy, Paton thought when he picked it up, until he noticed how stoutly made it was of old mahogany. The age-darkened brown of the mahogany was relieved by inlays of brighter woods—slender panels and lines of some wood that showed richly gold, and another that was, he judged, the flowing red of some sort of cedar. Intricately carved over the entire box was a pattern in which hearts and ferns, trailing vines and graceful scrolls, were cunningly interfretted. A thin, gold shield pivoted aside to show the lock, a shining steel affair whose adequacy even Paton’s inexpert eyes recognized.
Gilda was coming down the stairs as he opened the door with his treasure-trove. At the sound of his footsteps, his aunt, with Sybil and Viva, came into the hall.
“Here’s your box, Gilda,” he said lamely; conscious all at once it would have been wiser to have taken the box to town with him, returning it to Gilda later privately. At his words Gilda halted on the stairs; but the two other girls crowded around him.
“Where did you get that odd. lovely thing, Dallas?” asked his aunt. “What is it?”
“An old mahogany coffer. I—found Rough worrying it, Aunt Julia.”
“How extraordinary! But why should you think it Gilda’s?” asked Aunt Julia, studying the box through her lorgnon.
Paton looked to Gilda for help; and felt a quick anger at his own thoughtlessness when he saw how white she looked; how alarmed were her gray eyes.
“I thought Gilda had lost a box I remembered hearing her say so the other day.”
“But that was nothing like this lovely thing!” exclaimed Viva. “If you’re going to give it to anyone, remember I spoke for it first, Dallas.”
“Viva, dear!” her aunt rebuked her gently. “The box
that Gilda lost, Dallas, was a little wicker affair for sewing materials, which she mislaid somewhere. I can’t see where this could come from.”
“It is rather heavy for Rough to have brought home unaided,” Paton admitted. “Though I know he does fetch everything he finds at the neighbors’.”
“What’s in it, Dallas?” asked Sybil.
“I’ve no idea. It’s very securely fastened with a most businesslike lock, which couldn’t possibly be pried open. The box is so stoutly built, it would have to be sawed to pieces to get inside without the key.”
“I’m afraid your Uncle Henry is getting impatient, my dear boy,” Aunt Julia warned, as the motor horn signalled violently.
“I’m going at once, Aunt Julia. Since none of you claims my find I think I’ll take it to town with me. If an owner doesn’t turn up, we’ll consider which of you is to have it.”
Gilda spoke for the first time, from her place on the stairs.
“Are you going straight to your apartment, Dallas?” she asked.
“No, I haven't time. I shall take the box to the office with me, and not go to the apartment until to-night.”
The motor horn signalled again, and Paton waved a farewell as he hurried down the walk. “Sorry, uncle!” he began to explain; but the other cut him short.
“All right, my boy, all right. I know what these girls are. And your Aunt Julia is quite as bad. They’ve no respect for business—no comprehension of it, in fact. Well, that’s as it should be. Get in, Dallas, get in. What’s that you’ve got there, my boy? What an extraordinary box!”
At his words, a young man lounging a few feet away, as if waiting for someone, turned sharply. They had left him several blocks behind ere Paton, searching through hazy recollections, remembered whom he had been reminded of.
“I believe that’s the fellow I saw on the porch last night!” he thought.
A BUSY day at the office—a day that, interrupted x * only by hurried lunches at noon and again at dinnertime, stretched far into the evening.—drove all thoughts of the mahogany box and its problems from Paton’s mind. When, at its close, he prepared to leave for the
night, the sight of the box awaiting him beside his handbag, filled him with sudden compunction that he had neglected to relieve Gilda’s suspense by telephoning her that he was taking good care of the box, and would do so until he had an opportunity of restoring it privately to her. He looked at his watch; it was too late to ’phone her without rousing Aunt Julia’s curiosity—to-morrow would have to do.
He was unable to find wrapping paper handy, so he partially covered the box with the evening paper, and took it under his arm. After the tiring day, he was glad he had moved into town; and had not the journey out to his uncle’s home before him. The rooms he had rented, on the second floor of the Arcade Apartments, were located in a corner of the building, on the side facing Dominion Square. A short hall, at right angles to the main hall just around the corner from a flight of stairs, ended in a cluster of three doors, cut off from the rest, and enjoying a sort of semi-privacy, the more valuable to those to whonr privacy appealed because of theii easy access from the street. Engraved cards on his own door anc the one opposite bore respectively the names of Russell Powell, and thaï of the man from whom he had sublel his apartment, an engineer namec Fosbrook. The door of the third apartment, midway between his and Powell’s, had no visiting card ir the frame provided for that purpose Instead the door bore a silver plat« with a single word cut deeply int its gleaming surface: Yolana.
Paton bent to examine it; the haunt ing. musical name had dwelt in hi: memory since the day he had firs' visited the apartment when Fosbrool had laughingly called his attention t his neighbor.
“She’s very quiet, and so are he visitors; I’ve never been disturbed a all. The prices she charges mak hers an exclusive clientèle,” he ha said.
Paton dropped his bag on the floor of the hall;and, wit’ the mahogany box still under his arm, felt for his latch key. It was not in the pocket where he expected to finit. Instead his fingers caught at something strange t him. He drew it forth and stared at it—a chain anlocket; it was the trinket he had picked up in Gilda’ room the night before. He remembered that he ha intended to hand it to her, but before he could do s Rough had barked and Uncle Henry had spoken; an Gilda had hurriedly insisted on his leaving her. In th excitement, he had absent-mindedly slipped the thin into his pocket and had forgotten it.
A T THAT moment the door opened suddenly; and A primly-dressed little maid, in a frock of black sill with crisp, frilly apron and cap, stepped out into the hal She was a very young maid, scarcely more than a chile and she looked half a doll, half a saint, with her pa! gold hair under the absurd cap, and her great eyesinnocent and cerulean as the wild bluets the children ca “forget-me-nots”. She gave a little start at the sigi of Paton so close to her; then looked anxiously past hin pursing up her babyish mouth to whistle a soft and coa: ing call.
The room behind her, Paton saw with one cursoi glance, while he hunted through his pockets for the ke which he began to fear he had lost, was dimly lit an richly furnished; hung in thick velvet of a peacock bln with rugs and deeply-cushioned chairs and couches gkw ing with softly-blended peacock hues. Through a velve draped door leading to an inner room, a faint strain • music came stealing. Someone behind those curtail was softly playing a violin. Even in the prosaic su roundings of an apartment house it had an eerie soun-
The little maid whistled the three silvery, signallir notes again; with a guilty backward look into the apar "ment, as if she feared to be caught in mischief. Fro the room beyond, a voice rose—a white, sexless sopran Paton paused in the search for his elusive key to list« with frank curiosity and pleasure.
“There’s a by-road the saints fear,
“And the wizards seek in vain;
“The way of it is too queer “For me to make it plain;
“But we find our track by the Zodiac “To Yolana marvellous!”
Thus the crystalline voice sang; breaking off suddfen at the sound of a shrill, crescendic shriek, which bursfcih
peal of goblin chuckles as a rocket shatters into fiery stars. Paton, startled into consciousness of his lapse from courtesy in listening, half believing that the eldritch laughter was intended as a rebuke to himself, turned hastily back to his own door, and resumed the search for the key Fosbrook had given him when he leased the flat.
Hush thee, Asmodeus!” The tone was stern, but the voice was the silver voice of the hidden singer.
“Respect the name of thy mistress, king of demons!”
THE pretty maid grew impatient.
“Lotin!” she called. “Where are you then, mon Lotin?” At the sound of her voice, the velvet curtains parted and through them came a figure clad in a page’s suit of black velvet, carrying a violin—a figure strange as the music to which he had given voice. Paton looked at him, surprised, a deformed boy, crippled and shrunken, large-headed and shockhaired; with the most piteous eyes he had ever seen.
“Lys,” he said sternly. “Come within. What is it that you do?”
“But mon Lotin!” exclaimed the .little maid pettishly. “Mow Diablotin! I must have my little devil, I tell thee, Leon. Hechas escaped, that devil of mine!”
“He is hidden within, thy devil,” the boy assured her. “He will not come for thy whistle; he obeys only the call of Yolana-Marvellous. Thou knowest it.” Then he turned to Paton, standing in embarrassment at Ms own door. “Is it that m'sieu’ wishes something?”
“I am the new tenant of this apartment,” Paton said with a smile, glad of a chance to explain his presence.
■“I’ve just arrived to take possession, and find I must have lost the key Mr.
Fosbrook gave me.”
“That is simple,” returned the boy.
■“Ï collect keys, me. It is a pastime with me. I believe I can find one to assist m'sieu’ to enter.”
“That’s very good of you,” said Paton. "Mr. Fosbrook told me he had good neighbors. My name is Paton.”
' And I am Leon, the familiar of Yolana-Marvellous,” said the boy proudly. “This one here, so impetuous! is my sister Lys.”
“I am thy sister, yes!” exclaimed Lys. “But, foolish one, why dost thou not inform m'sieu' that I am also the bien-aimee of Yolana-Marvellous, the core of her heart, her ladybug, her most beautiful?” Her childish voice rose excitedly.
“Chut!” said Leon indulgently. “Thou art a little silly. ^ Step within, M'sieu' Paton; and I will bring my keys.” He moved back from the door, and waved Paton inside.
“But my dear little devilkins!” wailed Lys. “He has fled, mon Lotin!”
From the other side of the velvet curtains, embroidered defiantly with peacock feathers, reckless of the misfortune their beauty presages, a clear whistle sounded— once, twice, thrice—the same silver call little Lys had already given so ineffectually. At the sound something dashed from under the chesterfield close to Paton, and a dark object hurtled through the air to vanish on the Other side of the curtains. A moment later they parted, and a woman came through—a woman on whose shoulder perched a gibbering monkey.
■'T'HE little maid laughed with delight. “Behold mon *• Lotin!” she cried gaily. Gravely impressive, Leon stepped forward. “I present our new neighbor, M'sieu* Paton,” he said, with a grand gesture. “Yolana-Marvellous, M'sieu' Paton.”
Paton gazed at the owner of the name he had found so aljuring with interest. A supple, dark woman, she was; with blue-black, shining hair folded closely around an irrogant head, and brought with a sweep across her forehead almost to the level of the slender, dusky crescents pi her brows. Her languorous mouth was ruddy as a Persian rose, and-as spellful. From head to foot she Was swathed in cloudy, amber tissues, over a close underdress of shimmering cloth of gold. Strings of topaz swung from her neck and wound her arms. She seemed to Paton the living presentment of one of those dead Eastern queens of whom Swinburne sings: Aholibah, Semiramis, Erigone or Alaciel; the music of whose names ©vokes dreams of haunting and magic beauty.
She acknowledged Paton’s salutation with the slightest possible inclination of her imperious head, and, though she did not speak, he was nevertheless uncomfortably
aware that she was conveying to Leon her surprise and displeasure at finding him there. He hastened to apologize.
“Your—Monsieur Leon found me fumbling at my own door, unable to enter; and was good enough to offer to loan me a key.”
Yolana’s gaze shifted from Paton’s face to the object under his arm and lingered there; reminding him suddenly that he was still carrying the mahogany box. Paton’s
glance had followed hers....when he looked up, she had vanished beyond the peacock-broidered curtains, whither the crippled lad immediately followed her.
He was back after a little, with a ring of keys of all sorts and sizes, from which he rapidly made a selection, and led the way to Paton’s door, with Lys an interested attendant.
“Ho, ho, m’sieu’!” Leon chuckled after the third trial, as the key turned in the lock. “It is not a difficult door to open, this one of yours. You should have a special lock applied, as we have.” He detached the key from the ring and handed it to Paton. “I make you a present of this one here, m'sieu’. Bon soir!”
A LONE in the strange apartment, which had seemed homelike and inviting when he visited it before, Paton felt on onrush of loneliness which made him wish himself back at his Uncle Henry’s. He hunted through his pockets for a match, to solace himself with tobacco, but found none; nor was a search of the apartment more successful. He thought of going across to Powell’s flat to borrow some, but disliked disturbing him at that hour. Then he remembered the group of small shops on the street floor; the convenient staircase, just around the corner from his own door, made it a simple matter to slip down and get matches at the news-stand.
A directory-board with the names of the various tenants of the building hung just across from the news-stand. As he turned to go up with his matches, he glanced at it, remembering he had not yet arranged to have his own name replace Fosbrook’s. A young man who had been standing behind him wheeled suddenly as Paton turned, and began an intent study of the board—so suddenly that Paton looked more closely at him. It was impossible to see his face as he stood; but his figure, his movements, were not unfamiliar.
Paton smiled. “I imagine every man I see is that fellow on Uncle Henry’s porch last night,” he thought. “He’s getting to be an obsession with me.”
Paton’s hasty glance at the evening paper was soon over and while he finished his cigar he studied the chain and locket-shaped ornament, that in the hurry of the moment he had forgotten to return to Gilda. It recalled the various incidents of the evening, and he pondered over them with a curious uncertainty. Why was it that Gilda had so evidently endeavored to deceive him? He hated deceit above all things, but for all that he found
it hard to judge her actions harshly. Thinking it over, it seemed more and more clear that she was shielding some young rascal she had run across in her settlement work. For all the very definite views that he had expressed the night before, he could not help but feel a sense of sympathy with her kindly intention. He could understand, too, her anxiety, not to give Aunt Julia such an opportunity for censure as this corroboration of her prophecies undoubtedly would be.
HE WAS tired after his hard day at the office, he retired early and dropped off to sleep almost at once. But he slept only to fall into strange dreams—dreams through which devilkins and demons circled, while monkeys made exquisite music; and a little holy-eyed, blonde maid and a deformed lad came flying on a broomstick at the whistle of a dark and glowing Eastern queen—a queen centuries dead—Chrysothemis, perhaps, queen of Samothrace, whose kiss kindled the dying to new life; Amnestris, the royal Persian, “whose breasts were lordlier than bright swans”; Alaciel, she of the dove-white throat, whose lips were called the doors of love.
Though he had a dulled sense of a sound, a movement, which might or might not have been part of his dreams, it seemed to him that it was a perfume that woke him—a waft of fragrance calling to mind strange odors that were but fascinating names to him, champaca, vervain and vetiver, spikenard and uggur. He sat up and spoke sharply: “Who’s there?” His mind still swirling with dreams, he tried to remember where he was, what unfamiliar room housed him. Then recollection came, and he laughed drowsily and composed himself to sleep again, satisfied the strange scent which had roused him had been as much a figment of slumber as were the phantasms peopling his dreams.
The chimes in St, George’s tower rang two o’clock; then he heard nothing more. The sun shone broadly in and the noisés iri the street indicated that the world was awake and at work when he woke ftgain. His eerie dreams of the night forgotten, his first thought was of Gilda, his Lady of Ventures, who had chanced to “pass tiptoe and beckon him,” and whom he knew himself ready to follow, as those whom the Lady marks as her own'must always do.
He would telephone Gilda as soon as it was late enough, he decided, and ask her how he was to return the mahogany box, since she had been unwilling to claim it in front of her aunt and sisters. All frankness himself, hating even the shadow of insincerity in anyone he cared for, he frowned involuntarily at the idea of the deception involved. The thought of the mahogany box led him to look toward the table where he had placed it the
night before____he must have moved it and forgotten...
he had left it on the larger table... .on the desk then— But it was in none of these places... .The box was gone.
THAT soft sound, the vague movement, that strange fragrance—they were real then, he had not dreamed them. Someone had entered his apartment while he slept and had stolen the box Gilda believed safe in his possession. He had been aware an attempt had been made to steal the box the night before; he remembered too the young man he had seen in the lobby downstairs— he had even noticed his likeness to the man he had seen acting suspiciously at his Uncle Henry’s house; and had fancied the fellow deliberately tried to avoid being seen, yet, beyond locking his door, he had taken no precautions. He had carried the mahogany box from his uncle’s home to the office, and from the office to his apartment, stopping on the way at the apartment of Yolana, unwrapped, only partially covered by a folded newspaper, for anyone to see. The truth was he had regarded it negligently; he had imagined the mahogany box contained some girlish trinkets of Gilda’s, possibly what was left of her month’s allowance; and that one of the young hoodlums of the slums where she spent her days, liad first begged and then tried to steal from her. The quaint old box itself, he had suspected, was, like her gorgeous kimona, an extravagance she had not yet confessed to Aunt Julia, who had no sympathy with tastes she did not share.
It came to him now that the matter was more serious than he had believed. It was no casual sneak thief, anxious to snatch a few trinkets to pawn, who was concerned. The box, or its contents, was so desired by someone that he had bpcn watched and followed and his
apartment entered in order to secure it. Paton became suddenly conscious of a vague uneasiness at Gilda’s connection with the affair.
When he opened the wardrobe where the clothes he had worn the previous day were hung, he noticed at once a faint, unusual odor —the dream-fragrance which had awakened him. His nocturnal visitor had sought for something else then beside the box. The papers, money and various trifles he had left in ’ his pockets were intact; though he could see they had been disturbed. The odor still lingered faintly in his bedroom too—instinctively he connected it with \ olana, but that might be because she had figured in his dreams; he could not be sure he had noticed it in her apartment, though he seemed to remember it there. The articles on his dressing-table had been hastily handled, it was evident from their disarray. He had left the box uncovered on the living-room table, so that the thief had no need to search further for it; besides, it was too large to have been concealed in the places investigated.
A REALIZATION of what had been sought did not come to him until, ready to go out to breakfast, his instinct for order made him pick up the evening paper sprawling untidily on the smoking-stand beside his armchair, to throw into the wastebasket. Something golden and glinting was revealed as he lifted the paper—the chain and oval ornament he had picked up in Gilda’s room. He had been studying it as he finished his cigar, he remembered: ar.d his carelessness in leaving it on the stand instead of returning it to his pocket had resulted in its safekeeping. It was this bit of chain and its trinket that someone had looked for in his pockets and on his dressing-table.
As soon as he reached his office, he put in a telephone call for his uncle’s home, intent on telling Gilda the mahogany box had disappeared, and finding out what she wished done about it. He took up the instrument eagerly when the answering signal came; only to meet disappointment. It was Viva’s fresh young voice that greeted him. At the first break in her chatter, he asked, as nonchalantly as possible, for Gilda.
“Gilda?” repeated Viva. “Gilda’s not here. She stayed in town last night, at that old settlement she’s so interested in. Listen, Dallas! Aunt Julia wants you to come to dinner to-night, sure. You will, won’t you?” Paton paused to think. He felt an urgent desire to speak to Gilda at once, without waiting for the evening.
“Do you know the Kenilworth telephone number, Viva?” he asked.
“No. We never call Gilda there. But I presume you can find it in the telephone-book. You’ll come to-night, won’t you, Dallas? And don’t forget to bring those new photographs of your sisters you said you had.”
“I won’t forget, Viva,” he said; and reached for the telephone directory while her good-byes were still lilting over the wire.
With the address of Kenilworth House before him, he reached for the telephone instrument; then paused. Instead of ’phoning Gilda, why not go to see her?
He had shared his Aunt Julia’s distaste, though he had been ashamed to admit it, for Gilda’s settlement work. He had an old-fashioned idea she should be content to spend her time quietly in the beautiful home Uncle Henry provided for his three nieces; or going about to teas and matinees with Aunt Julia, as her sisters did. But when he came to the friendly, pleasant settlement-house; and caught glimpses of the various activities going on in their work of betterment of the sordid neighborhood, he was ashamed of the disapproval he had felt for Gilda’s connection with it—Gilda was right to prefer it to the inane days of her sisters. A young woman with a cordial manner, and eyes that crinkled deliciously when she smiled, came to meet him. He smiled back at her as he asked for Gilda.
“Miss Frayne?” The smiling eyes grew' questioning as she repeated the name; the pretty brows puckered.
“Will you come to the office, please? Our superintendent, Miss Brice, will be able to tell you where to find her.”
THE person to whom his charming guide handed him over was less to Paton’s taste. Tall and thin, her grizzled hair severely dressed, her clothes austere in style as possible, she examined him suspiciously with pale-blue, prominent eyes; and appeared to find her scrutiny disappointing in its results. It was evident to Paton that whatever causes had brought Miss Brice to her position, a love for her fellow-beings was not aniong them.
“Miss Frayne?” she repeated after Paton. “Miss Gilda Frayne? She is not here.”
“Perhaps you can tell me where to find Miss Frayne; I am anxious to see her.”
Paton’s smile, a charming smile most people found it, failed of its usual effect. Miss Brice’s eyes and voice remained cold as she answered:
“I have no idea where you can find Miss Frayne. Miss Frayne has no connection with Kenilworth House whatsoever.”
Paton suppressed an involuntary exclamation of surprise. “I’m sorry to have troubled you,” he said, as he rose to leave; “I have doubtless made a mistake in the place. It must be one of the other settlements I want.” “Miss Frayne was connected with Kenilworth House,” Miss Brice stated acidly, “for a short time—about ten days or a fortnight, if I remember rightly—certainly not longer—over a year ago. She tired of the work very soon, however; and left us. I am quite sure she has not taken up the work elsewhere in the city, or I should have heard of it through my associates at the other settlement houses.”
pATON had scarce’y got back to his office from Kenil-*• worth House before the telephone rang. He picked up the instrument mechanically; his mind still occupied with the puzzle of Gilda’s actions. To his surprise, it was her voice, blithe and untroubled, that came to him over the wire.
“Viva tells me you want to speak to me, Dallas,” she said.
He was as disconcerted for íe moment as if it had been e at fault. “Oh, yes!” he told h “Are you at home then?”
“No. I’m still in town. I telephoned out home, and Viva told me to call you. Did you want anything special?”
“Yes. I’m awfully sorry, Gilda, but I have bad new's for you. That mahogany box—it was stolen from my apartment last night.” ‘It was? Was anything else taken?’
“Nothing at all. That’s the strange part.”
“I’m glad you didn’t lose anything of your own. But why do you call it bad news for me?”
“Why—I thought you’d hate awfu’Iy to lose it. I fancied yesterday you were worried about it; I was sorry I was so brainless as to take it in to you without first making sure Aunt Julia and the girls weren't around.” “But, Dallas!” Gilda’s voice rippled wdth cool amusement. “Why in the world should you think that! It isn’t my box!” “It isn’t your box!”
“No, silly! Want me to say ‘Cross my heart?’ ”
“Of course not, but—”
“How dramatic you are over an old box you feund the dog playing with!” She hesitated a moment, then continued. “But, Dallas—did you find out what was in it?”
“No. It had a lock that couTdn’t be opened without its own key. Besides, Ithought it was yours, so I didn’t try.” “I’m sorry you thought that, if it was a cause of worry to you. Have you done anything about it?”
“I didn’t like to report the theft to the superintendent of the building till I heard from you,” sa d Paton. “I didn’t feel at liberty to say where I got the box without your permission.”
“That was awfully thoughtful of you,” averred Gilda, “but not necessary.”
‘You advise me to do so, then?”
“Of course! Though if you lost nothing but an old box you never saw before yesterday, what’s the use of getting some poor burglar in trouble? He may have a sick wife and large family.”
“Your opinions and mine regarding the proper treatment of gentry of that sort don’t agree,” Paton reminded her drily.
Gilda laughed gaily. “Viva tells me you’re coming out to dinner to-night? Good! Au revoir till then, Dallas.”
She was gone from the wire, and the things he had wanted to say, the questions he hadlonged to ask her, were unsaid. After all, how could he tell her that, al though Viva had told him Gilda had spent the past nighl at Kenilworth House, the superintendent of Kenilworth House had assured him Gilda had had no connectior with that place for a year? To say he could not wait foi evening to tell her the box she claimed did not belong t( her had been stolen from him, seemed even to himself t poor excuse for what would appear to be intentional spy ing on her actions, a deliberate trap to catch her in a lie And he knew that, however his Lady of Ventures might “wander truantly”, he wanted, more than he had evei wanted anything before, to be able to believe in her.
THOUGH his office work was pressing, Paton’s pre occupation prevented him from giving it the attentior it required; so he gave up at last and left for his apart ment at an early hour. He was sorry after he had dont so, as he found himself with nothing to fill in the idlt time before the six-fifteen train, which would take hin out to his uncle’s home. He welcomed therefore tht sight of an acquaintance, an artist named Kingsley Young, who was standing in the lobby of the Arcade.
“You’ve taken Fosbrook’s apartment, I hear,” sw Young, as they climbed the stairs together. “You’r just across from Russell Powell, then. Nice fellow, Rus sell—my wife’s brother, you know. I must take you int
Powell’s place and show you a little picture I’ve just given him as a birthday present. Might go in now ; but Russell won’t be home so early. Besides, I’ve got an appointment—with Yolana! By the way, what do you think of her?”
“I don’t know much about her,” said Paton. “But I must admit I’ve very little faith in clairvoyants.” “Neither have I, my boy; but wait till you know Yolana! Clairvoyant! She’s more than that—she’s omniscient, if you ask me. Oh, you may laugh! You’ve heard about that drowned girl, haven’t you?”
“Sure!” said Paton. “No one ever mentions Yolana without referring to that drowned girl story.” (
“Just the same, there are the facts,” persisted Young. “She did locate the girl’s body—despite everything.” “Coincidence—or the clairvoyant had inside information. The girl may have taken her troubles to Yolana first.”
“Always sceptical! Wait till you’ve had dealings with her yourself. I’ll tell you what, Paton; I’ll take you in with me now; I’ll let you see her at work. She’s got a dwarf there—awful-looking lad—her familiar spirit, they say. She never speaks to him—before people anyway—
just looks at him; and he knows what she wants at once. It’s positively uncanny.”
Paton laughed; but he remembered as he did so his own brief experience with Yolana and Leon.
“You may laugh! I tell you her advice is worth getting. It may be chance, or clairvoyance, or a keener sense for what’s doing in town than others possess; but she’s a marvel. I’ll tell you why I’m going to see her now—did you hear about that jewelry-store robbery recently? You must have noticed that little place tucked away on one of the side streets near the post-office;it’s small, but very old and well-known. The present owner, George Grayson, a great friend of mine, has had it for thirty years;and he inherited it from his father. Everybody in Montreal knows Grayson; he’s one of the crack golfers of the town, and a wizard on skis.
“One day, about a week ago, his clerk came back from lunch to find the store deserted, the showcases rifled of their most valuable goods, and Grayson unconscious in his office, all battered up and half covered with the rug. When Grayson was able, he explained that a woman had come in and asked to see a tray of rings. While the two of them were leaning over the tray, a young man entered and clubbed him over the head—
—that’s the last he knew.”
“Didn’t they catch his assailants?”
“They never left a trace behind—not a trace! And Grayson’s description is extremely vague. He’s only just out of danger now. The police think it must have been the work of a pair of clever amateurs. So I made up my mind to get Yolana’s opinion... Oh, you may smile at my credulity! I don’t blame you.” In spite of himself, Young looked a little sheepish.
THEY were standing in front of the door with the gleaming silver plate when Young finished his story. In response to his ring, the door opened; and the demure little maid Paton had seen the night before stood before them. Paton smiled at her; but her grave manner did not change; and Paton concluded she kept her childish gayety until business hours were over. She ushered the two of them inside; and Young explained that he had an appointment with Yolana.
Although out of doors the sun was shining, the room was lit artificially, as Paton had seen it the night before. Several women and a couple of men were awaiting their turns with Yolana. From the inner room, out between the velvet curtains, drifted a tenuous band of fragrant smoke. Paton sniffed it sharply. “Incense of some sort,” Young explained softly. As he spoke, the song Paton had heard the night before began again:
“While the magic smoke goes bluely “From the burning magic gums:
“We out of the skies materialize “Yolana-Marvellous!”
“Theatrical, all right,” Young commented in a whisper, “but it makes its impression.” Paton agreed with a smile.
“Come on, Paton,” said Young, as the little maid reappeared between the curtains and motioned him to follow her within.
“3ut perhaps she won’t like me to go in with you,” said Paton.
“We’ll try it, anyway. She can’t do more than put you out, at the worst.”
On the other side of the curtains, they followed Lys across a similar reception room to a heavily-draped, velvet-hung door. Here, at Lys’ gesture, they paused.
The room in which they found themselves, as Lys dropped the curtains behind them, was draped from ceiling to floor with black velvet. A strange blue light played eerily over a slender figure on one of the two
divans, also of black velvet; the only furniture in the room. A brazier of green-gold metal, from which curling, scented smoke ascended, stood on the floor; and, beside the unoccupied divan, rose a breast-high trident of green-gold, holding a luminous blue globe, like a huge blue pearl, or some strange moon arrested and held fast, magically enslaved to illumine, for Yolana’s scrutiny, the face of her client.
At the sight of Paton, lagging a step behind Young, she rose with swift grace, silently. Instead of the golden costume she had worn at Paton’s first sight of her, black chiffon now foamed duskily around her slim body, and wreathed her arms to the very tips of her rosy fingers.
“I ventured to bring my friend in with me,” Young started to explain. “I thought you wouldn’t object.” Yolana did not answer. Instead the drapery behind her parted sufficiently for Leon to step through.
“You desire my presence, Yolana. I am here,” he asserted. She looked at him without speaking; and he turned to the two men.
“Yolana-Marvellous does not receive two visitors together,” said the boy. “One of you must retire.”
“But can’t you make an exception just this once?” coaxed Young. “If I double the fee?” he added persuasively.
“Fees are not mentioned before Yolana,” Leon rebuked him grandly. “Those are matters to be settled with me. Only one of you can stay. It is the rule.”
“If you don’t mind waiting for me outside then, Paton?” asked Young, and Paton retraced his steps to the outer reception room, where he seated himself to wait for Young.
TEN minutes later, Young, joining him there, showed by his perturbed manner that he had been even more impressed than he expected. He looked oddly at Paton.
“I wish she had let you stay,” he said. “No wonder they call her ‘Marvellous’! Come on somewhere where I can tell you all about it.”
Paton laughed. “Here,” he said, taking the key to his apartment that Leon had given him from his pocket. “Go on into my place; and I’ll join you in a minute. I’m going back in there.”
Before Young could question him, he had walked straight to the velvet curtains with their flaunting peacock-feathers and passed abruptly through. He crossed the second reception room swiftly; and drew aside the draperies guarding Yolana’s sanctum. The room was empty, so far as he could see, except for the monkey Lys had introduced as “Diablotin”—her little devilkins—who sat in front of the green-gold brazier, warming his hands in pantomime in the lazy spirals of ascending smoke. As Paton stepped into the room, a crash of shrill, elfish laughter greeted him—the malicious laughter, he recognized, of that Asmodeus whom he had heard Leon hail as king of demons, and upbraid for his fleering at the name of his mistress. At the sound Diablotin shivered, cringed, and slunk away. From somewhere above Paton’s head, a voice called harshly:
At the call, the black-garbed figure appeared suddenly as Leon had done; and from the tent-like draperies of the ceiling a gray parrot fluttered down to rest on her outstretched wrist. At the sight of Paton, she retreated quickly.
“Don’t go!” said Paton peremptorily. “I want to speak to you. I don’t need to tell you that someone entered my apartment last night and stole a mahogany box—you already know it. I knew as soon as I came in here and smelled that smoke. That odor was in my room last night when I woke I’m ready to return the box to the person who can prove ownership; but I don’t intend to have it carried off as it has been and do nothing. Are you going to give it to me, or shall I go to the police?”
Yolana, her eyes on Paton’s, made no answer; but through the curtains a shrunken, pitiful figure dragged itself; and Leon, stepping in front of his mistress, faced Paton with blazing eyes and a white, distorted face.
“Go!” he gasped fiercely; his throat working spasmodically, unable to control his voice in the fury that had seized him. “You dare to speak so to Yolana-Marvellous? It is I, Leon, who will kill you for that!” His clawlike fingers clenched as if they already felt Paton’s throat.
Paton stepped backward uncertainly—impulse had carried him into a difficult position.. .what could he do against a woman and a deformed boy?
Yolana placed a chiffon-swathed hand on the boy’s shoulder, but he shook off the light touch and stepped nearer Paton.
‘ Leon!” warned Yolana, in a whisper. But the boy’s passionate anger did not weaken ; there was no relaxing of his tense, twisted body. Then she turned to Paton, and spoke as softly.
“Go, please—quickly!” she begged. And Paton, swayed and fascinated against his will, went.
“■yOU certainly have nerve!” admiringly commented 1 Kingsley Young, comfortably seated in Paton’s biggest armchair, when Paton re-entered his own apartment. “The idea of you going back to see Yolana without an appointment, or even being announced! Did she tell you what you wanted to know?” “She did not!” remarked Paton with a grim laugh. “How about yourself? Did she tell you?”
“She sure did! Marvel, did I call her? She’s a miracle! Would you believe she told me the whole story of Grayson’s affair—the whole story, mind—things he hadn’t even breathed to anyone but me, his own good old pal. This is just between ourselves, you know—I’m not usually a babbler, but that wonder-witch has upset, me—Grayson didn’t tell the police all. That woman who went in and asked to see the rings—he confessed she was an attractive piece; not what you’d call a beauty, but she had a way with her. My friend was always ready for an affair with a lady; and this ore didn’t discourage him at all, quite the contrary! Well, they had stepped into his office to make a date for a litio supper; when in bursts the fellow' who hit Grayson on the head. Grayson has always been a little gay —quietly so. you know; but he has a morbid fear of scandal, always has had; though he’s a bachelor and tUlWlhtj it’s no one’s business but. his own
what he does. That’s how it happened the police didn't get the true story. But Yolana told it to me jn&t as Grayson himself did. Now what
Continued on page 52
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do you think of that? Wonderful, surely?” “I think she knew what she was talking about all right. How do you know she’s not the very woman? If she knew so much, I suppose she told you who did it, and where to find them?”
“No; she told me they’d never be caught. But she added that if Grayson were to give his word to drop the case, all the plunder would be returned intact, and the real story never become public. I told her I knew he’d be only too glad to agree to that.”
“You’d better get the police to search her apartment. If I were Grayson, I’d see that the pair of them went to jail. They’ve probably got cold feet, and prefer giving up the loot to being caught.” “Paton, you’re absurd. Just because this woman is a clairvoyant, and you don’t happen to believe in clairvoyants, you’re ready to accuse her of anything. What possible connectionis there between her and Grayson?”
BUT as he continued to smoke quietly it was evident that something of his confidence was leaving him. “The worst of your damn skepticism is that it’s so lausible, and so contagious. I came over ere ready to believe that there was something of the occult about the affair. And remember that I still incline to that belief. Either she’s a genuine witch or she knows too blamed much about the affair. When I think of her I am quite confident that she’s all right. But then when I remember poor old Grayson and the brutal way they smashed him up— Well, if I could get my hands on the people who did it I would see them well punished.” There was still an hour before traintime when Young started to go. “Russell must be home by this time,” he said, looking across at Powell’s door. “Come on over, and I’ll show you that picture— best little thing I’ve ever done!” With his arm linked through Paton’s he led him across the hall, in spite of Paton’s demur that he scarcely knew Powell well enough to run in on him uninvited. Young pressed the bell-button violently, and immediately tried to open the door. When it proved to be locked, he beat a lively tattoo on the panel, increasing in vigor as footsteps approached. Paton fell back, a little embarrassed, as the door opened and Powell appeared; but Powell’s greeting was pleasant.
“Want to show the little picture to Paton here, old man,” explained Young, his round, pink face shining with a cheerful smile. “Good thing you let me in before I broke the door down, isn’t it?”
“Is this the first time you’ve been in to see Russell?” Young asked after the picture had been duly admired. “He’s got a lot of things worth examining—some I wouldn’t give house-room to, and some I wouldn’t mind having myself. These old English porcelains, for instance!” He led the way toward a cabinet standing near a curtained door opening on an inner room. Powell followed, courteous but uneasy,
Paton thought. A hurried, soft movement as of a hidden listener behind the drawn curtains, convinced Paton that he had been right in thinking their visit inopportunely timed.
I’LL come back some other time,” Paton hastened to tell his host; “if you’re good enough to ask me. I’m going out to dinner to-night; and I shouldn’t have stepped in at all,” he explained, with a smile for Powell, “but Young insisted.” “Just a minute, Paton,” Young detained him. “Here’s something I want to show you—a present to Powell from a friend of his in the British West Indies. Look at this quaint old carved casket!” Paton turned quickly, involuntarily. “Why, where is it. Russell?” Young continued. “I thought you always kept it on its own little table here, like a little altar! .... Oh, there it is! What’s it doing over there in all that hubbub?” he asked. “That’s no place for it, with all those books and magazines hiding it.” He picked up the casket as he spoke, and set it carefully on the little table, drawing back for Paton to see and admire. Paton looked. There, in all the bravery of its intricate interlacing of trailing ferns, hearts and graceful scrolls, its inlay of vari-colored woods, its pillared edges, stood the mahogany box....
“If Russell would give me my choice of all his possessions,” said Young, “I believe I’d choose this at once. But he happens to value it quite as much as I do. Just look at it, Paton; it’s unique. Powell’s friend, who’s a native Jamaican, and no purchaser of souvenirs gotten up for tourists, found it in a little out-of-the-way town on the island. Every stroke that went to its making was done by hand; a labor of love, I suppose, on the part of some old pirate who carved it out and put it together as a token for his lady. This yellow inlay is orange-wood, the red a West Indian cedar. Handsome, isn’t it? I’ve envied him it every day of the six months or more he’s owned it.”
“Very handsome,” Paton agreed with him laconically. Powell, standing by, his face non-committal, his eyes on the box, said nothing. There was nothing in his attitude or countenance to determine whether he knew that Paton had ever seen the box before. That it was the same box he had taken away from Rough, Paton never doubted for an instant. Every little unevenness that added to its interest was a distinguishing mark.
“Look at that lock,” said Young. “It’s far from modern, but nevertheless it’s a corker.” He pushed the thin gold shield that hid the lock to one side, exposing the steel keyhole plate as he spoke. “Let me take your key a moment, Russell,” he continued. “I want to show Paton the inside.”
For the first time since the box was mentioned, Powell exhibited embarassment. “I—” he began hurriedly. “The truth is—I can’t just lay my hands on it at the moment.” ’
“You don’t mean to say you’ve lost that key? How in the world did that happen? I thought you never let it out of your sight. Where did you lose it?”
Powell smiled at his importunity; answering only with a little shrug.
“Sorry, but I have to be going,” announced Paton, before Young could renew his questioning. “I have to make a train, and I haven’t much more than enough time. Thanks for your invitation to come and examine your treasures, Powell. I hope you’ll come in and see me, now that we’re neighbors. I’ve Fosbrook’s apartment across the hall, you know.” “Oh, yes! That reminds me,” said Powell. “Fosbrook left his key with me for you. He said you left it behind you the time you leased the apartment from him, and that you’d probably think you’d lost it. He told me he’d telephone you to stop here for it.”
“I did think I had lost it,” replied Paton. “Fosbrook forgot to ’phone me. Our neighbor kindly let me in, and gave me a key.”
POWELL took a key-ring from his pocket, and detached a key. “Here it is,” he said. “I thought it best to carry it with my own keys so as not to put it away somewhere and forget where,” he explained.
“Good idea. I’ll do the same at once.” Paton reached in his pocket for his keychain as he spoke. Instead it was the piece of gold chain with the locket-shaped ornament attached he had picked up in Gilda’s room, which he drew forth.
“That’s not what I want,” he started to say, but Kingsley Young interruptedJiim.
“Why—why—” he stammered. “Where in the world did you get that, Paton?” he demanded sharply. Then, as Paton stared at him, he began again.
“I beg your pardon if I seemed abrupt, Paton. I was surprised out of my manners, I guess. I presume you picked it up somewhere—in the hall, or on the stairs, perhaps?”
“I did find it, as it happens, Young,” rejoined Paton, half amused, half-nettled at the other’s manner. “But what’s all the excitement about?”
“Why, that’s Powell’s missing key— the key to the mahogany box!”
“The key to the mahogany box?” questioned Paton, in astonishment, and turned to look at Powell. But Powell’s face was once more imperturbable.
“Of course,” said Young. He took the slender golden oval with its bit of dangling chain from Paton’s unresisting hand. “Do you mean to say you didn’t get on to the trick of it? Though, for that matter, how could you, if you’d never been shown? Look here!” With a deft twist, he separated the seemingly solid ornament, along a groove that had appeared to Paton merely a part of the decoration of the edge, into two oval plates of gold which slid around to form a handle for a slender, curiously-incised steel key, until then concealed between the two oval plates that merged into one so perfectly.
“Now we’ll open the box,” said Young jovially. “So it fooled you, did it, Paton? You didn’t know it was a key, eh? Where did you find it?”
Paton’s reply was inaudible, but Kingsley Young was too interested to notice.
“That’s not my key,” said Powell sharply. It was the first time he had spoken since Paton had inadvertently drawn the thing from his pocket in place of his own key-chain.
Young looked at him. “It isn’t? Are you dippy, boy? Do you suppose there are two alike? Keys like this aren’t made in pairs.”
“They must be,” rejoined Powell decisively, “for that’s not my key, since mine has never been lost, and consequently can’t be the one Paton found.”
“I thought you said you didn’t know where it was,” said Young, staring. Then he burst into chuckles. “Say, Russell, I hope these crazy fits of yours don’t run in the family. I’d hate to think your sister Allie was liable to them!”
“Don’t be an ass, King,” Powell retorted sharply, “I said I couldn’t lay my hands on my key, and that means in this case, if I have to be so definite, that I had mislaid it somewhere in the apartment. It has never been lost.”
“All right, old boy. If you say it isn’t your key, it isn’t. I don’t wonder you’re ashamed to admit that you were careless enough to lose it. Just the same, I’ll bet I can open that box of yours with this
key." He moved closer to the mahogany box as he spoke.
“Don’t do that!” said Powell sharply. Young paused and stared at him, an uneasy suspicion beginning to dawn on him. “I mean,” Powell continued somewhat lamely, “that not being the right key, it might snap off in the lock—or something of that sort—and I don’t want to be obliged to have my box cut to pieces.”
YOUNG laughed heartily, twirling the little gold key-chain on his plump finger, pink as a baby’s. “Listen to him, Paton! What do you think of this young brother-in-law of mine? He doesn’t want us to see what’s inside! We won’t tell on you, old boy. What is it, anyway? Letters from a lady? We wouldn’t read them, would we, Paton? He’s afraid I’ll tell Allie on him.” His laughter ended in a fit of choking that doubled him up and threatened to dislocate his eye-glasses. Automatically, he threw up a hand to save them; and, as he did so, the keychain slipped from his fingers and flew along the floor. Only Paton saw where it went. Young was engrossed in his coughing fit, his pink face rapidly turning purple; Powell occupied in getting him the glass of water he begged for. Only Paton saw how very near the key lay to the curtained door behind which a soft movement had betrayed, to Paton’s ears at least, a concealed listener.
No one but he saw the curtains sway ever so slightly, and a small hand thrust through to reach for the key—a hand crisscrossed with strips of surgical plaster. But though a slender arm, in a white silk shirtwaist sleeve, followed the hand, the key lay just too far away for it to grasp. Unobserved by the two other men, Paton bent and picked up the key, and, after returning it to its original shape, dropped it into his pocket. The matter of the mahogany box, since Gilda denied any claim to it, and Powell’s ownership seemed indubitable, no longer concerned him. But the strange golden locket that turned into a key, he had picked up in Gilda’s room, Gilda herself had watched him do it, and to Gilda he intended returning it.
PATON went across to his own apartment, after a brief farewell to Powell and to the slowly recovering Young, just beginning to be able to breathe again, when Paton left, after the sorry trick his sense of humor had played him. He heard Young leaving shortly after his own departure; and, looking at his watch, found that he had only a little while left to catch the six-fifteen out to his uncle’s; they had stayed longer in Powell’s apartment than he had realized.
He had run down the stairs, and was about to leave the building, after stopping at the news-stand for papers and cigars, when he remembered the photographs he had promised to take out to Viva; she would be disappointed, he knew, if he did not bring them. It was only a few steps across Dominion Square to the Windsor Station; he decided that he could afford the few minutes necessary to go back for the pictures.
He hurried up the stairs and around the corner to the corridor ending in his own, Powell’s, and Yolana’s doors. In his haste, he almost collided with a lady who was coming along the hall, leisurely drawing on her gloves. His eyes happened to rest first on her half-gloved right hand, strapped crosswise with surgical plaster; then sought her face. It was Gilda.
HELLO, Dallas!” she greeted him smilingly. “How is it you’re not already out at the house? I thought you were going out with Uncle Henry.”
“Uncle Henry wasn’t feeling well, they told me when I ’phoned his office to see what time he was leaving, and he went home at lunch-time,” Paton explained. “Since you thought me already gone, I can’t flatter myself that your presence here means that you came to call on me?”
Gilda blushed ever so little at his words but her tone was quite unembarrassed as she answered. “I’m afraid you can’t,” she replied airily, as she pulled her glove carefully over her injured hand. “But if you hurry, we can take the six-fifteen out together.”
“Wait for me one moment then,” said Paton, and explained about the photographs he had returned for.
When he came back, she was standing at the head of the stairs, ready to descend. As Paton joined her, a well-dressed, attractive blonde woman, with a certain allure in spite of an undeniable lack of
fineness, came up the stairs toward them. Paton gave her a casual glance, which recognized her stamp at once. He was both surprised and annoyed to see that the woman intended speaking to them, and that Gilda appeared to recognize her.
“You’re just the person I wanted to see,” said the blonde woman. “You know me, don’t you?”
“You are—” Gilda hesitated, as if uncertain how to express herself. “It’s— Mrs. Powell, isn’t it?”
“That’s what I used to be all right. But I generally call myself ‘Miss Whaley’now, since the divorce, ‘Coral Whaley’. Most people call me ‘Coral’. Say, I want to speak to you.”
Gilda turned to Paton. “You had better go on, Dallas. It’s getting close to train-time. I’ll come in a minute.”
“I’d rather wait for you, Gilda,” rejoined Paton; determined not to be thus summarily dismissed.
Gilda looked at him. “Very well,” she said. “Excuse me a moment, please.” She made a little motion with her head to the other woman, whofollowed her around the corner of the hall.
“I suppose you're wise to what I want, all right,” the voice of the woman who called herself “Coral Whaley” reached his ears. Gilda’s reply he did not hear; and the other woman also lowered her voice, until she grew excited.
“Just you give it to me,and I’ll goaway and leave him to you,” she said shrilly. “What else do you suppose I want? Him? That shrimpl Well, I guess not! What do you take me for?”
'T'HEN only a murmur of voices reached A him. Paton, undecided wrhat to do, star ted to move out of earshot ; then stayed where he was at the head of the stairs. He had no desire to play eavesdropper; but he did not wish to have other visitors to that portion of the building, if any should chance to come, find Gilda, unwarned, being threatened by such a woman.
“I think you’re pretty fresh, buttin’ into my affairs anyway!” rose the strident voice again. “I want to skip this burg, and how can I this way? You give it to me; and I’ll go away and let you do as you like. Mark my words, miss; if you don’t, I’m going straight to that uncle of your’s that thinks himself so swell, and tell him just what you’ve been up to!”
There were some whispered words in a softer voice, evidently Gilda’s, then the other woman spoke.
“Don’t you suppose I know it? Sure, I’ll go if you pay me... How much did
Another interval of murmurs; then the two women came around the corner of the hall—Gilda’s face inscrutable as ever, Coral Whaley beaming.
“Good-by,” she said. “And good luck! I’m headed South, if anyone should ask you.” She passed them, her high heels clattering down the stairs, and was gone.
“I hope I haven’t made you miss the train, Dallas,” said Gilda, starting to descend the stairs. “Come on.”
“Just a minute, Gilda,” answered Paton, suddenly remembering. “Here’s something I want to give you before we get out to the house. I picked it up in your room, you remember, the night your burglar came, and unintentionally carried it off in the excitement.”
Gilda looked down at the oval locket and chain he had laid on her palm; her gray eyes veiled by their lashes, her face pensive. Paton waited a moment in the hope that she would offer some explanation that would throw some light on the strange occurrences of the last two days, but she said nothing. “We’ll have to hurry,” he said finally, “we’ve just about time to make the Windsor Station.”
“I’m sorry, Dallas,” she said without looking at him, “but I’m afraid after all that I won’t be able to go out with you. I’ve just thought of something that I have to do in town, that I can’t leave till tomorrow. I’m sorry. It’s stupid of me not to have thought of it before. You needn’t say anything of having seen me. I’ll phone Aunt Julia and tell her myself that I will be out later. Good-by, Dallas.” And before he could remonstrate or seek any further explanation, she had turned and was quickly swallowed up in the crowd. Paton turned to follow her, but quickly realized that it would be next to impossible, and would certainly result in his losing his train, so making the best of the situation he turned and dashed down the platform, just in time to catch the last coach as the train started Jto pull out.
ALTHOUGH the night before Paton had found time hanging heavily on his hands in his new apartment, and had often enough wished himself back at his uncle’s home, he found to-night that, despite his pleasant surroundings, the evening dragged interminably. He found his mind wandering off to the city, to Powell’s apartment, to Yolana, and to Gilda, and the strange network of deception and cross purposes that seemed in some way to surround her. His preoccupation was so marked that Viva began to tease him about it, a teasing that later .developed a tone of petulance.
The mention of Gilda’s name aroused his attention. “It’s really too bad,” his aunt was saying. “Your Uncle Henry must certainly speak to her. She telephoned just before you arrived that she was detained in town again to-night. I do not like these night ventures. They are not for a girl like Gilda. Besides, she gives up altogether too much of her time to this settlement work; it’s carrying things to extremes. She wanted to arrange to live in the place in the beginning; but your uncle set his foot down about that! I didn’t like o say anything to him to-day aboutit as he isn’t feeling well.”
“Where is Uncle Henry?’ asked Paton. “There were some things I wanted to talk to h m about, but he disappeared right after dinner.”
“He went up to his room to lie down for a little while. I’m rather worried about him; he has not been himself for a week, and I’m afraid one of his bad attacks may be coming on. I think, if you’ll excuse me a moment, I’ll just go up and see how he is, Dallas.”
“You’re not half as much fun as you used to be, Dallas,” pouted Viva; and Paton roused himself to amuse the child. The sound of his aunt’s voice, high and startled and grief-stricken, put an abrupt end to the chatter.
“Dallas!” she cried. “Sybil! Viva!” Paton was the first to reach her. White and shaken, but self-possessed, she met him in the upper hall. “Your uncle!” she said.—“The doctor quickly, Dallas!—I’m afraid he’s dying!”
The family doctor, who lived close by, was hastily summoned. The attack was as serious as Mrs. Paton feared. There was confirmation in his serious face, even without any added words. The attack was serious, he admitted, very serious. No one could tell how it would go. He was strong, he might throw it off. But there was always the other possibility to be faced. It was better to be prepared.
“And Gilda away atsuch atime!” There was real grief in his aunt’s voice as she turned to Paton. “Will you phone her, Dallas, to come home at once? Viva will find you the number. If you can get Gilda on the line immediately, she will be able to catch the theatre-train home.”
“I’ll get her, Aunt Julia,” he comforted. “Stay with Auntie, Viva. I can find the number,” he said, as the girl rose to accomf iny him to the telephone.
HE SHUT the door of the little sittingroom, where the telephone instrument was, very quietly behind him; and pulled the directory to him, hastily running through the pages until he came to 7 ussell Powell’s name.
“This is Dallas Paton, Powell,” he said, when the call was put through. And cut short thé other’s pleasant greeting.
“I hardly know how to explain myself, Powell,” he said, “but—is there a young lady there with you?”
He ignored Powell’s exclamation impatiently. “Are you alone, Powell?” he asked. “Can anyone overhear you, or can you speak freely?”
“I don’t know what you are getting at, Paton,” said Powell coldly. “But, if it’s any of your busiess, I am alone.”
“I don’t mean to be unnecessarily impertinent, Powell, I assure you; but it’s difficult for me to say what I want to. And one never knows who’s on a telephone line. This is the point: I happen to know that there was a young lady in your apartment this afternoon when we called on you. 1 also have reason to think she returned to your place later. I want to speak to her as sbon as possible. My uncle has just had another of the attacks he is subject to; and we fear he is dying.” “Oh, I’m awfully sorry!” replied Powell in a shocked voice. He was silent a moment. “Look here, Paton—you’re all wrong in what you suppose; but I think I know where to find the young lady you want. I’ll be glad to do anything I can.”
“Thanks,” said Paton briefly. “If you’ll be good enough to send her out on the theatre train? Good-by.”
But the theatre train came in and the minutes passed, and in the hushed house where everything had seemed to stop with the finding of the stricken figure of the master of the house, there was no change. And Gilda did not come.
“You couldn’t get her, Dallas?” asked his aunt.
“It was too late to make the train, I’m afraid, Aunt Julia.”
“And I’m afraid to-morrow will be too late! The girls are like his own daughters. I can’t bear to think of having one of them away if... .anythinghappens! Gildanever loved her uncle as her sisters did; but she would want to see him again before he leaves us, I know!”
“Would you like me to take the car and go for Gilda, Aunt Julia?” Paton aeskd her, after he had thought a little, and spoken to the physician. “Doctor Gracey says that even if we give up hope —and he hasn’t done that yet, dear Aunt Julia—there is no immediate danger ¡there will be time for me to fetch Gilda.”
“If you will, my dear boy? I don’t like to ask you to leave your uncle; but I’ll never forget it if Gilda isn’t here!”
PATON had little time for thought on his hurried journey into town ; he was too busy watching each traveller going in the opposite direction. He was haunted with the fear that he would pass Gilda on her way home. When she saw she could not get the train, Powell might decide to take her out to her uncle’s home himself, he thought. But he reached the Arcade without meeting anyone that might have been Gilda.
The lobby was deserted when he went in, except for a man lounging near the closed news-stand, who eyed Paton sharply, in spite of the laziness of his attitude. Half way up the stairs that led to his own, Yolana’s and Powell’s apartments, Powell met him. Before he could speak, Powell made a significant gesture for silence, and turned and led the way to his own door, which, Paton noticed, was partly open. As they drew near the group of three doors, Paton was startled by a sudden burst of song in Leon’s voice from Yolana’s apartment.
“Where is she?” asked Paton impatiently, as soon as they were inside. “When she didn’t come on the theatre train, I decided to come in for her. I suppose you couldn’t make it?”
Powell was still standing at his partlyopen door, peering out into the hall with a disturbed face. He was in an agony of worry and anxiety, that was plain enough. His own uneasiness regarding Gilda grew.
“She’ll be here soon now.... I hope,” said Powell embarrassedly, in reply to Paton’s question.
“I thought from what you said over the telephone that you were going to get her,” said Paton.
“I couldn’t,” replied Powell briefly. “You got word to her though about her uncle, didn’t you?” asked Paton.
“Do you mean you don’t know where she is?”
“I couldn’t get word to her without going after her, and I might have missed her,” explained Powell wearily. “And I couldn’t leave here:... I think we’ll hear from her very soon now.”
“You expect her to come here? Ycu’re watching for her now?”
“I’m watching for.... Yolana.”
“Yes. Look here, Paton; you can help me a great deal, if you will. And I’ll he eternally grateful. There are so many entrances to this building—she always uses this one nearest us—but she might choose another to-night! She may get to her own door without my seeing her—and she mustn’t go in unwarned!”
An idea flashed across Paton’s mine'. “That man downstairs in the lobby is a detective!” he said.
“Yes. There’s another waiting for heinside. They searched her apartment without finding anything,and now they’re waiting for her. She went out hours ago
to dispose of......a parcel—”
"The loot from Grayson’s store!” said Paton; but Powell ignored the interruption.
"If she hasn’t succeeded if she brings it back with her . . .she mustn’t walk blindly into that trap!”
“But, see here, Powell!” expostulated Paton. "What in the world have you to
I do with anything of _ this sort? Why should you protect a thief—or ask me to
“Yolana is not a thief!” Powell retorted sharply.
“Well —say a receiver of stolen goods, then—not much difference—let things take their course, and keep out of it.” Powell looked at him indignantly. “I forgot when I asked, you for help, Paton! I had already been warned you are one of these cocksure individuals who never do anything they shouldn’t themselves, and have no sympathy for anyone else—who want to see anyone who makes the least mistake tucked behind the bars at once!” “I believe in justice—and honesty, if that’s what you mean,” Paton informed him stiffly.
“Justice!” repeated Powell disgustedly. “At least it's too late for you to do any more harm, anyway. I’ve an idea it was something you said to my brother-in-law that brought these men here to-night— Kingsley would never think up anything like that himself!”
PATON moved toward the door. “If you’ll let me pass, I’ll go across to my own apartment, and wait for Miss Frayne if you think she’s likely to be here soon. Otherwise, I must go back to my uncle’s.” “Sheshould have been here before now,” replied Powell moodily. “I suppose I can depend on you not to tell these men what I’ve said?”
“Certainly, I won’t repeat what you’ve said,” rejoined Paton indignantly.
“I’m going down to wait on the street,” said Powell; and, leaving his door slightly ajar, he ran lightly down the stairs just around the turn of the hall. Paton had scarcely unlocked his own door—he had not even had time to turn on the lights, when he heard the elevator at the other end of the main hall stop, the clang of its grated doors, and the sound of approaching footsteps.
Around the corner into the corridor which led only to the three apartments, came a woman, slender, graceful, young; in a dark suit and a hat which came down closely around her face. He thought from her walk it was Gilda; and, disturbed though he was at her being there at all, drew a long breath of relief. As she drew nearer, he saw that the coils of hair under the small hat were shining-black, not fawn-colored; the veiled face dark and glowing. He noticed at once that she carried a parcel....
She came on through the dimly-lit hall without seeing him standing just inside his own door, nor could she see that his door, like Powell’s, was slightly open. At the sound of her feet on the uncarpeted floor of the corridor, Leon’s voice, from behind the door with the gleaming silver plate, rose in a wild outburst of melody. “The dwarf came with the swart name,
“A-whispering in my ear;
“And I nodded and took the by-road "Thro’ the night obscurely clear—” At the sound, Yolana stopped... turned to flee. Up the stairs around the corner came the rush of heavy feet. Yolana looked from one side to the other desperately.
PATON’S principles in which he believed so sincerely—his own longcherished conviction that mercy is simply a yielding to one’s own weakness, dignified by a fine name; and that “to be just is an excellence beyond all flight of sentiment”, failed him suddenly. At the sight of that slim, shivering, frightened figure, he opened the door wider; Yolana —no longer the imperious reincarnation of some dead Eastern queen, now only a trembling girl—caught at this hope of escape and slipped within; Paton closed and locked the door softly.
Holding her fluttering hand, he whispered what Powell had told him of the men waiting for her. “You still have the —plunder with you?”
“Yes,” she breathed.
“Give it to me.” He took the parcel she proffered, and dropped it into his overcoat pocket. Outside the ominous footsteps liad passed his door and gone to Powell’s. Yolana’s own door opened; and someone came out.
“The elevator-boy says he let her out on^this floor,” said a man’s voice.
(t “She didn’t comein here,” said another. ‘That young limb of Satan warned her all right. I thought he wasn’t singing like that for nothing!”
Paton stretched out his hand to the
light-switch. Then he looked for the woman to whom he had given sanctuary. Without a sound to betray when or whither she went, she had vanished.
A rap on his door startled him. As he stood hesitating, he heard Powell’s voice.
“Are you there, Paton?” Paton opened the door at once, with a glance of warning.
“She came in here,” he explained; “but I don’t know where she disappeared to!” “Did she have the.... parcel with her?” inquired Powell anxiously.
“Yes, but I took it from her. I have it.” “Oh!” said Powell thankfully. “It’s all right then. I’m sorry for the things I said to you just now, Paton! I was worried, and—”
A loud knock at the door interrupted his apologies, startling both men into silence. “You’d better answer, Paton,” Powell advised. “They know someone’s here.... Take off your hat and coat first,” he advised.
THE man Paton had seen in the lobby, and another, stood in the doorway when he answered the uncivil summons. Their speech was softer than their knock had been. They simply desired permission to search Paton’s apartment. They had already searched the one across the hall, whose door they had found open.
“Certainly not!” pronounced Paton. “Why should you search my apartment? Have you a warrant?”
“Only to search the fortune-teller’s next door,”, they admitted. But the elevator-boy had brought her up, and they had heard her come in this direction, and
A door somewhere in the apartment opened suddenly; the lights in Paton’s bedroom flashed into brightness. In the bedroom stood a charming figure, clad in an enveloping bathrobe of blue -and-white Turkish towelling, which Paton recognized as his own. Over each shoulder trailed a thick braid of silken-tawny hair, the color of ochre.
“Why not let the men go through the apartment, Dallas? You really needn’t be so disobliging! It will only take a minute, and we’ll all feel better when they have made sure there is no one concealed here?”
“Thanks, miss—ma’am,” said one of the men. “We won’t disturb you long.” He looked to Paton for permission; and Paton nodded mechanically.
Not until the men had finished their search and gone, did Paton speak.
* “Where did Yolana go?”he asked. “And how long have you been here, Gilda?” “She didn’t go anywhere. She’s still here. I am Yolana.
“When you took Yolana in to-night, without knowing who she was and thinking her a thief, I knew it wasn’t necessary to hide the truth from you any longer. Dallas, you aren’t half so stern and hard as you’ve been thinking yourself!”
“What in the world delayed you so long?” scolded Powell. “I’ve been worried to death! You shouldn’t have run off on such an errand without letting me go with you. I can tell you I was angry when I went in to give you Paton’s message, and Leon told me where you had gone.”
“I didn’t want you mixed up in this affair any more,” said Gilda. “There’s a big fire on Guy Street, and the carservice is all disorganized in that part of the city, that’s why I am so late. It took me hours to get to Mr. Grayson’s house; and when I got there, the nurse wouldn’t let me see him, it was so late. I couldn’t get a cab, so I had to walk nearly the whole way back.”
“I’ll go in and tell Leon and his grandmother that you are safe,” said Powell. “It’s a wonder that boy didn’t kill somebody. They must have tied him down to keep him from going out to warn you. And I’ll see if you and Gilda can leave safely, Paton. You must be anxious to get out to your uncle’s.”
“Poor Uncle Henry!” said Gilda, when Paton told her of her uncle’s illness. “Let’s hurry, Dallas!” She threw off the bathrobe. “I’m all dressed except for my shoes and stockings—I took them off to make your bathrobe look more realistic. I was afraid those men would suspect Yolana came in here; so I slipped into the bathroom, scrubbed the paint off my face, hid my hat and wig in the bottom of your clothes-hamper, and covered my suit with this bathrobe of yours.”
She had just finished lacing her shoes when Russell Powell came back.
“There’s no one around,” he said. “I
think you’ll have no trouble in getting away now.”
“yOU remember the Morin family, who
I took us in after Mother died?” Gilda asked, when they were safely started on their journey home. “I told you I’d do anything to repay Grandmother Morin; and so I would. They had awfully hard times after Grandfather Morin died; 'till Grandmother Morin began telling fortunes—she always had, but not for money at first. She got to have quite a reputation for it—she was so shrewd and quick! Leon is just like her in that. But she only got small fees— quarters and half-dollars from her neighbors, poor like herself.
“When she happened to tell that drowned girl’s mother the truth, and the story appeared in the papers, people began to come from all over in a steady stream. This was just at the time I started settlement work; and ran across her by chance. I suggested, instead of taking money from her poor neighbors— though indeed she gave them first-rate advice for it!—she take an apartment uptown, go into the thing in style, and demand big fees from people who could afford it and were silly enough to pay. She needed the money; she had Lys and Leon to support; and the eldest boy, Raoul, was a lazy scamp, always begging from his grandmother to gamble, and dress like a dandy.
“So Leon and I planned it all. We chose the name from a poem we liked— Leon made a song of it—and sent out announcements, referring to the drowned girl story. We spent every cent Grandmother Morin had saved and all I could lay my hands on in fitting the place up. And the very day they were to move in, Grandmother Morin slipped and broke her leg. There was all the money gone; and living and hospital expenses to be met! I knew it was no use appealing to Uncle Henry—he really does believe in justice, not mercy!—and he had already paid the Morins well for taking care of us. Besides, he would have been horrified at the clairvoyant scheme! So what could I do but take Grandmother Morin’s place, and be Yolana myself?
“You’d never dream how much money we made. And I’ve enjoyed it so! So muchthatwhen Grandmother Morin came out of the hospital, I kept right on being Yolana. I always intended to let her take my place as soon as she was able; but I kept putting it off. I told you I wanted to have two selves, and I did. Every morning, when they thought at home I was going to Kenilworth House, I would go there and paint my face and put on a black wig and the queer clothes I had such fun designing; and have a beautiful time all day long! Only Russell guessed, because he had known me so long, and he saw me coming and going so often.
“T SPOKE about Raoul just now— A Raoul wasn’t really bad; only weak and easily led. He saw Russell’s divorced wife once when she came to ask Russell for money; and got to be infatuated with her. It was she that planned to rob Mr. Grayson; she promised to go to California with Raoul afterward. She planned it very carefully, except that she made Raoul keep the stolen jewelry; she didn’t want it found on her in case they were traced. But when Raoul learned from the papers that Mr. Grayson was likely to die, he came to me, as he always did when he was in trouble. What could I do? Whenever I was angry with Raoul, I always used to remember what a dear, black-eyed little lad he was that day Grandmother Morin took Sybil and Viva and me home.. . .no matter how bad he was, I couldn’t forget how he brought me his own little bowl of soup, and begged me not to cry any more for my mother, because le bon üieu had sent his angels for her....
“I took the jewelry from him, and told him I would return it secretly to Mr. Grayson; and I gave Raoul money to go to New York at once. I didn’t know what to do with the jewelry; there was no safe place in the apartment; so I took it. in to Russell; and he locked it in his mahogany box and gave me both box and key. He wanted me to leave it with him, lest I get into trouble; but Raoul had watched me go in to see Russell, and I thought, after he had seen Coral again, he might repent and try to get the jewelry back. That’s just what did happen.
“I took the box home with me the night you came back. The papers that day had
said Mr. Grayson would recover, so Raoul was no longer afraid of being a murderer and Coral abused him dreadfully when she learned what he had done with the jewelry. It was Raoul you saw on the porch that night—Lys had told him I had taken home ‘such a pretty box’; so he knew where to look for it. It was he who rang the bell later; and begged me to give him the jewelry so Coral would marry him and go away with him. He was so crazy about her he was willing to run any risk. When I refused, he climbed up and hid on the balcony—Rough never turned up until he tried to leave. Of course you did hear me cry out, when I woke and saw him coming in my window; but I couldn't let you send Raoul to jail!
“He got the box away from me, but he couldn’t get the key; and he dropped the box and had to run away without it after all. Though it wasn’t till you came back next morning I knew he hadn’t succeeded in getting away with it.”
“And you preferred staying in town and breaking into my apartment to steal the box back—”
“By way of the fire-escape,” Gilda interrupted him. “That window never did fasten. Our monkey, Diablotin, ran away once, and Mr. Fosbrook had to bring him back.”
“And run the risk of being shot as a burglar,” Paton continued reproachfully, “rather than trust me enough to tell me the truth?”
“But, Dallas! Remember all the things you said to me that night in front of the fire! You were quite as severe, you boasted, as Uncle Henry. You would have wanted to send Raoul to jail at once, and let Grandmother Morin and Lys and Leon, who loved him, make the best of it! I didn’t dare tell you. I warned Russell to let you believe anything, to let anything happen, rather thanhave you suspect.”
Paton laughed a little shamefacedly, remembering his own words.
“This afternoon when Mr. Young came to consult Yolana about the Grayson affair, I risked telling him I knew the true story, to find out if his friend would be willing to drop the case if the jewelry were returned. He assured me that he would. I can’t understand how he came to go away and send detectives after me to-night.”
“I can,” admitted Paton with compunction. “That’s my fault, I’m afraid.”
“As soon as you and he left this afternoon, I had Leon dismiss the waiting clients, while I washed off the Yolana make-up and changed my clothes, and slipped into Russell’s flat to tell him what Mr. Young had said. And the two of you came in and caught me there. I knew you saw my hand reach for the key, but I was so desperate! Russell had insisted on guarding the box himself after I stole it back from you; but we couldn’t get the jewelry out of it, to return it to Mr. Grayson, until we had the key. When you picked it up and went away with it, I decided to go home and ask you for it, if you wouldn’t return it of your own accord, but you obligingly did so right after Coral came and demanded the jewelry. I gave her money to leave town too; and threatened her with arrest if she didn’t go—no matter if she did tell Uncle Plenry I was Yolana, as she said she would!”
“To-morrow,” said Paton, “I shall have Young take me to his friend Grayson, and I’ll hand over this parcel to him, on the usual condition: ‘ No questions askedV "
They reached the house, and Rough had come out to greet them, before either of them spoke again. As Gilda was about to run up the steps, Paton stopped her.
“It seems to me that Powell has been extraordinarily interested and thoughtful all through this affair,” he declared jealously.
“Hasn’t he?” agreed Gilda with enthusiasm. “But Russell is always like that.”
“And here, ever since I saw you ‘pass tiptoe and beckon me’ I’ve been thinking of you as my Lady of Ventures,” Paton lamented.
“Well?” Gilda questioned, very softly.
“You mean you don’t care for Russell.. I’m not too late, Gilda,sweetheart?” asked Paton joyously; but the door opened before Gilda could answer. Viva, her lovely face radiant, stood before (hem.
“He’sbetter!” she cried. “Uncle Henry’s better. Doctor Gracey says so.... But what are you two lookingso happy about?” she asked suspiciously. 11 You couldn’t have known he was better, till I told you!”