ARCHIE P. McKISHNIE
estate is in the hands of Jonas Haight and Wesley Trollivor. Keen men, unhampered by scruples, cold, cruel crafty. To them comes the news that the heir, reported dead, is alive and coming to claim his own. Too deeply involved to meet this situation, they induce Nevilles, who drops in upon them with his story of overshadowing crime, to act as the heir. Webster once in the saddle does not show himself as amenable as the conspirators had hoped. He falls foul of James Turnbull, another cold blooded business man, whom Haight and Trollivor are anxious to placate. Trollivor is engaged to Turnbull's half sister, but for some reason is reluctant to marry. Turnbull knows that both men have made serious losses on the market, and that to recoup these losses Haight is preparing to enter a horse in the Adanac handicap. The so-called Webster visits Bryce, who has charge of the tenements belonging to the Parnley estate, and who administers them according to the will of Haight and Trollivor. Webster reaches an understanding with him. Later Trollivor, leaving a meeting in which he and Haight had tried to involve Webster in a great oil swindle, finds a revolver pressed against his side, and is spirited away to an uncertain fate, and the story goes on—
CHAPTER XVIII Ashes of Poppies
LARA KIMBERLIE frowned down at the card she held in her hand. Her maid standing respectfully by, vacant of expression as all well-trained maids should be, patiently awaited the orders of her mistress.
“Tell the gentleman I’ll be down in ten minutes, Kitty,” said Miss Kimberlie.
She stood in the centre of her room as the maid withdrew, twisting the card into small fragments.
Clara Kimberlie was perplexed ; more, she was not a little vexed.
What in the world could this reprobate David Webster wish to see her about? She was sorry, now it was too late, that she had not refused to see him.
There was a red spot in either cheek, a gleam in the dark eyes which portended little good to her visitor, as she passed slowly down stairs and entered the drawingroom.
Nevilles was standing beside the window gazing out on the dewbathed grounds. He turned as the soft rustle of silk proclaimed her presence and bowed deferentially.
“Miss Kimberlie,” he said, “I trust you will pardon this early morning intrusion and allow me to explain my visit.”
She inclined her head coldly.
“Won’t you be seated, Mr.
She sank on the silken-cushioned divan and tapped a aaintily slippered foot on the floor.
Nevilles as he dropped into a chair thought her face the most exquisite he had ever seen—with one exception. He was quick to read the unfriendliness there.
“Miss Kimberlie,” he said, coming directly to the point, “you are, I believe, the fiancee of Mr.
Wesley Trollivor, my business agent?”
She inclined her head haughtily.
“As you are doubtless aware, he has disappeared.”
Again she bowed.
“For some weeks,” Nevilles went on, “he has, I understand, been subject to fits of despondency. You know of no secret
worries of any kind he may have had recently, I suppose?”
Nevilles sat wrapped in thought.
“Is that all?” asked the girl, rising, “or do you wish to cross-examine me further?”
He felt the scornful sting of her words and his jaw set a trifle.
“Do you think Trollivor has killed himself?” he asked abruptly.
A look of horror sprang into her face.
“No,” she whispered, “oh, not that, surely.”
“Mr. Haight, however, seems to think so,” said Nevilles mercilessly.
“And what do you think?”
The words seemed wrung from her white lips.
“I think,” answered Nevilles, watching her closely, “that it is more probable he has fled from something which menaced him.”
He saw the look of relief that came into her face.
“Oh,” she cried unguardedly, “if I could only think so.”
He smiled oddly.
“Why,” she cried, hating herself for so displaying her true self to his clever probing, “do you wish to know my feelings in this matter?”
Nevilles came a step or two closer to her and looked searchingly into her unwavering eyes.
“I am sorry I had to force my presence on you this morning,” he said sincerely. “Considering the reputation I bear, it was good of you to receive me. But'you see,” he added quickly, as she shrank back from him, “I knew a boy over in France who used to speak of a girl he could-
n’t forget, although it seems she had used him shamefully. I just couldn’t think that any woman could be false to a man like my pal; I told myself that I would find out—”
He smiled. She was leaning toward him, lips parted, hands rigidly clenched at her sides, regardly him fixedly.
“What has that got to do with me?” she asked tensely. He drew his mind back from a picture which had flashed before him. The picture of belated air-craft whining homeward through the sulphurous dusk and a broken man lying on a mattress on a battle-scarred field.
“You,” he said, “are that woman.”
She sprang to him, clutching his arm, eyes starry with emotion, all antipatny for nim swept away before the glorious knowledge that he had been tne pal of the man she loved.
“Oh,” she cried brokenly, “you were with him? Please —please tell me—”
He gazed down at the white fingers which gripped his arm; for the moment the old cynical light was gone from his eyes.
“After I have told you what I have to tell you,” he said, “you will understand why it was necessary that I see you this morning.”
For half an hour he talked in lowered voice, she listening with rapt attention. Her hands were clasped and her bosom rose and fell with strangled emotions. On the long lashes were tears.
It was a very different Clara Kimberlie from the one who had welcomed him so coldly who accompanied Nevilles to the door, as he took his departure.
“I can’t attempt to thank you, Mr. Webster,” she said, as she held out her hand. “But, oh, if you could only understand all what you have told me means to me.”
He smiled strainedly.
“My part,” he said, “seems to be that of making people unhappy rather than happy, so I came as soon as I learned that you were the woman. The sensation of having made your sky a little brighter is a new one to me.”
“Please,” she faltered, her eyes big with sympathy, “don’t say that. I am sure—”
She hesitated and he finished for her.
“That in spite of what people say about me, I have some good in me?”
He shook his head.
“Some day you’ll know me for exactly what I am. Until then try to think as kindly of me as you can.”
From the doorway she watched him stride across the lawn, leap into his car and send it shooting down the drive at a speed which made her dizzy. Then he was gone.
He might be as cruel, debased and reckless as people said he was, she thought, but David Webster was every inch a man.
\ FEW heavy rain drops driven A by an east wind blotted the wind-shield as Nevilles turned into Shag Villa grounds. Old Robbins met him at the door.
Nevilles paused at the foot of the stairs.
“You're a mighty dependable chap. Robbins.”
“I 'ope so, sir.”
“You must be getting pretty well along the road? How old are you now?”
“Seventy come September, sir. I've been here more than fifty years.” proudly.
“So you have.”
Nevilles leaned against the banister, his eyes twinkling
“Pretty nearly time you were getting a promotion, don’t you think?”
“Why, sir,” answered Robbins modestly, “that ain’t for me to be sayin’. I always ’oped old master Parnley would remember me, sir. but ’e went off suddent like; and— He sighed as he hung the slicker Nevilles had thrown him on the rack.
"Robbins, look at me,” commanded Nevilles.
The old man turned.
“Yen, sir. I be a-lookin’, sir.”
“You're a sly young rascal. Robbins.”
"Oh, no, sir I 'ope—”
"You think l haven’t got eyes, I guess."
"On the contrary, sir. I know you’ve got a very good pair of eyes. Master Davie.”
‘Correct, and they’ve seen enough lately to satisfy me chat you’re as lonesome as your red-breasted namesake without his mate. You young rascal, you’re pining for— -.hall I name the young lady. Robbins?”
“She be a remarkably fine woman, sir, is Mrs. Martin.” replied the butler with dignity. "I ’ad ’oped, sir. to tell her so. and more if ever 1 was in a position to do so.”
"You think she reciprocates your regard, Robbins?” smiled Nevilles.
"Well. sir. I wouldn't be goin’ scarcely that far; but she scolds me a good deal. sir. and tells me I’m an absentminded old ass. which I take it is a good sign, Master Davie.”
The best tr» the world. Robbins. Now then, listen, my boy. You know that fifty acre garden farm down in Maple Hollow?”
Oh, yes. sir; ’aven’t I always longed to own a little place like that? Mr. Pamley ’e often said, sir—”
Never mind what my uncle said, Robbins. Listen to what I’m saying. I’m having a pretty little bungalow7 erected on the bank of the stream in the butternut grove. I'm going to give you that farm, Robbins. You’ve earned ît. The deed will be here to-morrow and all the king’s oxen and all the king’s men can’t get that place away from you after you get possession of the deed.”
Nevilles’ face softened as he gazed on the working face of the old man. He reached for one of the shaking hands and gripped it.
Robbins,” he said, “you're a wild, headstrong young
'Exactly what I used to say o' you, sir, if you remember. Master Davie. But 'ow be I to thank you?”
Nevilles shook his head.
•lust call the first boy Davie.” he laughed, and went :p the stairs three at a time.
CHAPTER XIX Disillusioned
MYRA HUNTINGDON sang softly as she clipped
clusters of smiling roses from the arched spray of glory above her head. Her thoughts dwelt on Teddy Jerome and the thoroughbreds in the old trainer’s charge. The races were but five days away, and Teddy had told her only that morning he was certain Fire Fly would win the Adarac Stakes race.
She passed from the garden up the steps of the wide verandah. A copy of the Society Eagle caught her eye, or rather the heading in black-face type on its front page. She passed into the library. Placing the roses on the wicker table she picked up the paper, sinking into a comfortable chair. As she read, her cheeks flushed and her eyes kindled.
Rumor has it that a certain wealthy clubman, noted for his secret philanthropy, has purchased from the Pamley estate the distillery section adjacent to the river and will immediately proceed to rebuild the tenement district into airy and pleasant homes for the poor. Free gymnasiums and libraries will be erected for the use of the people; also schools, including a technical college. A park and open air play-ground will be a feature of the new7 area.”
Her guardian entered the room and approached the telephone, unconscious of her presence. As his hand touched the telephone, he looked up as though divining her nearness and he turned nervously.
"You will be going out?” he asked, his thin lips curving coldly.
She nodded defiantly.
"I wished to ask, Guardie, if you had received any word from Mr. Trollivor?” she said.
"No.” he answered shortly. “He has disappeared and r o trace of him can be discovered.”
"Have you done anything—”
‘I have notified the police. What more could I do? I was just going to call them now to see if they have further news.”
Have you told Mr. Turnbull?” she questioned, the -low red mounting to her cheeks.
"Naturally,” he answered, “seeing that Trollivor is engaged to his sister. He simply made light of the matter though; said Trollivor had likely gone off on a spree and would turn up, in a day or two.”
"But you think differently?”
'I know Trollivor didn’t disappear of his own volition. To do so would be suicidal to his best interests.”
"Then you think there has been foul play?”
"I know it,” he asserted.
He motioned to a seat. “Close that door, and sit down,” he commanded.
"Now then, Myra, supposing you and I have an understanding. Just how much do you know concerning this man, David Webster?”
CHE caught her breath and a little pucker grew up between her brow's.
“I know absolutely nothing about Mr. Webster, beyond what I have read of his escapades through the papers,” she answered.
He gave a mirthless chuckle.
Her eyes widened and she sat up straight .
“You do not believe that?” she asked, her eyes blazing. “Keep your devilish temper under control,” he snapped. "No, I don’t believe it. I happen to know that you and Webster have met frequently.”
“That’s not true,” she cried, “I wouldn’t even know that man if I met him face to face.”
Haight stared at her in angry astonishment.
“You mean—” he commenced, then paused.
“Listen, Myra,” he said sternly, “it is quite useless to deny that you have met and talked with Webster on at least half a dozen occasions.”
“You surely must realize,” she flared, “that knowing him for the beast he is I w'ould not think of meeting David Webster, let alone speak to him. Why do you insult me in this manner?”
“My dear,” he said, his manner changing to the old suaveness which she detested, “facts are facts. If you must know', I have had you followed. It was necessary for your owrn safety,” he defended quickly, uneasy before the cold fury in her eyes. “The man who followed you is most dependable.”
Myra laughed scornfully.
“So,” she said scathingly, “that is how your dependable sleuth did your worthy bidding? Well, Guardie, for your enlightenment and his, let me inform you that the gentleman I met—quite by accident—on the forest road was not David Webster, but his landscape architect. His name is Nevilles.”
“Just so,” he returned irascibly. “I understand that was the name Webster bore in the mining district, where he committed a murder and sundry other crimes.”
Myra rose slowly from her seat. Her face had grown very white.
“That cannot be,” she said faintly.
“It’s the truth. Nevilles and Webster are one and the same. He has Trollivor and myself to thank for keeping his neck out of a noose.”
“Stop!” she cried with a stamp of her little foot. “If what you say is true, why was I not told all this before?” “Because,” he answered, “I thought you needed a lesson.
“You will have to confess that your judgment has been in error, Myra, not only regarding Webster, but in other matters as well. Take your opinion of James Turnbull for instance. You have considered him coarse, greedy and mean; you have credited him with no single redeeming quality. Yet look at what he is undertaking now. Would a man—such as you have believed him to be—spend a million of his own money toward the uplift of stranded humanity, as he is doing?”
\ \ YRA stood up, swaying as she turned toward the -LYl door. Haight also arose. He crossed over and placed his hands on her shoulders.
“We must all learn our lessons, little girl,” he said, with hypocritical gentleness. “Remember, Myra, I am still your guardian. In a few weeks I shall no longer enjoy that capacity. I have tried to protect you and your best interests, and it seems hard that so near the end of my allotted task I should be obliged to hurt you as I have to-day.
“But it had to be. There is one thing I would ask you to keep secret. James Turnbull must not know that you are aware of his being behind the project of the rebuilding of the tenements. Realizing as he does your feelings toward those wretched people, there is not the slightest doubt in my mind that he has undertaken the work largely to give you happiness. There, don’t say a word now—” as Myra lifted her head. “Turnbull may have his faults, but striving to win your respect through an act of this nature is not one of them.”
He led her to the door, opened it and bowed low as she withdrew.
After all, she asked herself, what difference did it make? But as she drew off her coat and caught the reflection of her bloodless face in the dresser-mirror she knew it did make a difference. And in her heart she realized that she had all but given to the man who had called himself Nevilles everything that was of hers to give. But he had never guessed it; so much of her pride was saved.
Why had David Webster so deliberately deceived her? she asked herself.
Her cheeks burned as she recalled how he had agreed with her that the Parnley heir was almost everything he
should not be. What'a consummate actor the man must be.
Her golden head dropped and her lip quivered at the thought of how willing she had been to believe him—what he had pretended to be. She had given him certain confidences and he, seemingly appreciative, had received them and in return had told her something of his own checkered life—of his mine, the Little Rainbow, in a nook of the hills—and his hopes.
Humiliation choked her and a tear gathered on the long lashes and splashed on the little clenched hands. She got up from her seat and walked to the window. Above a bank of mauve blossoms a golden-barred oriole was twittering to a smaller, more sober feathered one of his kind.
“Little bird,” Myra whispered chokingly, “don’t you believe him.”
Then head high and eyes shining she turned back to the table, picked up the letter and swept from the room.
CHAPTER XX The Price
IF THE man who was playing the part of David Web-
ster had any doubt in his mind concerning his unpopularity among the chosen few of Harport it was for no lack of convincing proof on the part of those God-fearing citizens.
To them he was a waster, a drinking, gambling “lowbrow” whose one aim in life seemed to be to get rid of his fortune as speedily as he possibly could. Scarcely a day passed but one or more of his escapades was chronicled in the daily papers. Nevilles saw the fine hand of Jonas Haight here.
There was no question in Nevilles’ mind as to what the end would be. For six weeks now he had been playing the game. Two weeks more—perhaps sooner—would see him at the end of his tether. But with his going would pass also the real David Webster. So read the bond; and he would live up to the bond if only for the sake of his personal safety.
He felt reasonably sure that Haight and Trollivor would not attempt any treacherous move before they had received from him the balance of the half million purchase price of the Western Oil Lands. They were too astute and greedy to let so much money slip from them, he reasoned. He held the whip hand for the time being. There was but one fly in the ointment, one discord in the reckless, devil-may-care harmony that sang in his heart at the part he was playing—Myra Huntingdon. For this girl with the clear reading eyes that carried him back to his mountain streams and heart, as golden as the virgin gold he had discovered in the mother lode of “Little Rainbow” was ward of Jonas Haight and must in a certain manner suffer for Haight’s mistakes.
TT E WAS deliberating these questions as he bathed and dressed. The morning sun flushed rosily the deep rug of the spacious room, mellowing the old walnut furniture to a golden brown and dwelling lingeringly on a withered rose-bud w'hich drooped from a slender vase on the dresser.
She had given him that bud at their last meeting. He lifted the vase and inhaled the flower’s faint fragrance.
Nevilles stood looking away. If those words were true, he asked himself, then could there be any forgetting? So questioning he went downstairs.
He waved aside the breakfast the butler brought and sat staring away into space. Finally he stirred and with a deep sigh pushed back his chair.
“It’s a queer old world, isn’t it, Robbins?” he addressed the old man.
“Queer in spots; yes, sir, but not so bad on the ’ole, sir, do you think?”
“Why, now you speak of it, Robbins, neither it is.”
Nevilles turned toward the door.
“How’s the last batch of ‘snow-birds’ doing?” he asked.
“Very well indeed, sir, so Doctor Glen informs me,” answered Robbins, frowning as he gathered up the untasted dishes, “with the exception of the man they call Stokie, sir. ’E do be givin’ the doctor and Mr. Rudolph a little trouble now and then, sir, particularly in the manner of roughin’ it too much with his mates.”
“I see. Too handy with his fists for any of the others, that it?”
“Quite so, sir. But Doctor Glen be working wonders on those other dope-eaters. It’s marvelous, sir, indeed it is.”
Nevilles passed from the room and sought out the hard-working Griddle.
He found him with a beef-steak poultice applied to one eye and a purple lump on the side of his jaw. Griddle looked up painfully from his work of entering certain items in an account book.
“I got these beauty-marks obeying orders,” he said indignantly.
“You said I was to help Doctor Glen exercise this newcomer, Stokie. Well,” as Nevilles stared, “I’ve been doing it.”
“So it would appear,” grinned Nevilles. “Put the gloves on with him, did you?”
“And that’s as far as I got. Say!” he groaned, “he’s greased lightning, mule-kicks and land-slides combined, that nut. The next time I want to get cut to ribbons I’ll whisker the electric fan yonder. Pilot Stokie, V. C., D. C. M., etc., can go off his feed and to the good devil who owns and controls him for all I’ll ever do to prevent him hereafter. I thought I could box, but oh, man! That ace is everything from John L. Sullivan to Dempsey in one. If Doc Glen has got to keep that bloke physically weary to cure him, as he says, I advise that he hitch him to a plow and let one of the probation birds out in the fields yonder work him down that way.”
NEVILLES laughed and walking to the window looked out across the rolling fields, vari-hued in their garb of growing grain. In the distance he could see men werking with teams and hear cheery voices calling to the horses. Snatches of song softly mellowed by distance floated to him through the open window.
He beckoned Griddle over to him.
“Billy,” he said, “these probation birds, as you call them, are happy.” He pointed to the moving specks far afield. “Their wings are strong again, and hereafter they stay where safety lies, on the land.”
“Like hell they will,” snorted Griddle pessimistically, “they’ll fly back to the city gutter. You wait and see.” “No,” Nevilles shook his head. “They’re cured. You don’t know Doctor Glen’s power, my boy.”
Griddle cracked a distorted grin.
“Well, I know Stokie’s, and I’m not hankering for further experiments along that line,” he said ruefully.
He returned to his work and Nevilles went out and down the wide hall to the big store-room which had been converted into a gymnasium.
Three or four pale-faced men exercising on bar and rings, glanced eagerly up as he entered. He spoke to each one cheerfully and walked down the room to where Rudolph, the physical trainer, stood keen-eyed and watchful as his pupils went through their stunts.
“Shaping all right, Jim?” he asked, nodding toward the workers.
“Fair,” answered the other noncomittally. “You mustn’t work these cokers too hard at first; daren’t sweat too much dope out of ’em at a session. The Doc’s orders are to keep ’em going but not to let ’em overdo it.” “It seems to be pie for that new-comer, Stokie,” remarked Nevilles, his eyes on a tall, broad-shouldered man with a thatch of coal black hair, who was exercising on the horizontal bars. “He’s a well set up chap, that. Moves like an old athlete.”
“He is,” Rudolph said drily. “That’s Shovel Barclay, who might have been middleweight champion of the boxer world if it hadn’t been for the war—and what the war did for him. All he got out of it was the V. C. and the cokehabit. He’s not doing as well as we could hope, Mr. Webster. This regular stuff is only play for him. He’s sulky. What he wants is somebody to stand up to him with the gloves. If we could only import some old ringer who would give him the pummeling of his life he’d shape up beautifully. But, lord, where are we going to get such a man?”
“It’s going to take a pommeling tosave him, you think?” asked Nevilles, his face unsmiling. “Very well, then, he’ll get it.”
He began rolling up his sleeves.
“Go tell him I want to box a few rounds with him, will you?”
The instructor stood staring.
“But, Mr. Webster,” he began—
“You heard what I said,” said Nevilles. “You go and get him, and you might just look in on Doctor Glen and tell him to come out here. He might be needed.”
NEVILLES smiled queerly as he watched Rudolph deliver his message. He saw the young giant lift his head and stare across in his direction. Then with the quick, jolty stride of the athlete the man crossed the floor and stood before him. This fellow had it over him in all ways, he knew, weight, reach, everything but clean blood and health. Perhaps he did not yet realize the deadly undermining power of the drug which had become his master. Well, he would realize it soon.
“I understand you claim to be a boxer,” Nevilles addressed him sneeringly. “I’m rather curious to find out just how good you are with the gloves.”
“Suits me,” replied Stokie, his lips twisting in a grin. “You look as though you could stand a punch or two, and I’m tired of knocking those no-goods about.”
The men who had been exercising at the bars and ladders had drawn in close, scenting sport. One of them as he tied on Nevilles’ gloves took occasion to whisper a word of advice in his ear.
“Watch that left of his, Mr. Webster, and keep off from him.”
Doctor Glen appeared and a scowl bit deep_betwreen Stokie’s bushy brows at sight of him.
“Look here,” he spoke in an aside to Nevilles, “supposing we make this a sporting proposition. If I put you down for the count you agree to make old saw-bones there give me a full meal of coke; and if you put me away I agree to go through with the cure. What do you say?”
“You’re on,” agreed Nevilles. “This, my dear Stokie, is where salvation comes to you.”
Nevilles had rightly adjudged that Stokie would make it a whirlwind bout. The man craved cocaine as a desertvictim craves water, and it would be his if he put Nevilles to the mat for the count; but he was all but unprepared for the aggressive wild-cat rush that came in the very beginning of the opening round.
Twice in as many minutes Stokie’s piston-like right broke through his guard to jar him to his toes, and once he went to his knees from a glancing blow on the chin, which had it landed squarely would have knocked him out. He sprang up and back, crouching warily, cleverly countering the aggressor’s flail-like blows in the attack which he immediately followed by a stiff right and left
to the body. It was 1ive1y work. .] .~t l.. ...~.....A KT~....
The end of the round found Nevilles un distressed—but guessing.
Stokie looked as though he was enjoying the battle hugely. His teeth showed in a pleased grin.
He motioned to a sponge lying beside a water bucket.
“Better toss it up now, Mr.
Webster,” he jeered. “You’re game, but I’m sure going to get you this round—if you come on.”
Nevilles laughed, springing to the centre of the ring as the referee called time.
He was boxer enough to sense, as Stokie raised his hands, that the man was adopting new tactics.
“Going to play a little to the gallery—eh, Stokie?” he sneered, and delivered a short arm jab to the big fellow’s jaw.
Stokie’s head went back with a jerk. His little eyes fairly darted sparks as he rushed his opponent.
“Break,” commanded the referee.
They broke, Nevilles getting in an uppercut to the chin in the get-away.
“Huh!” grunted the surprised Stokie. He shook his head and grinned, fanning his gloves slowly as crouc’ningly he approached Nevilles.
“Now, just for that—”
NEVILLES saw it coming and sidestepped. He blocked a couple of veritable hay-makers and got in a stiff blow to Stokie’s wind. The giant was puffing visibly at the end of the round.
“There’s the sponge, my boy,” gLbed Nevilles as he took his corner. Stokie’s hard face -wore a distressed, perplexed expression. He laughed and shook his head.
“Watch me this time, Bo,” he warned. “I’m sure coming after you.”
“Stokie,” returned Nevilles, “I just can’t allow you to put me away. There’s too much at stake.”
His face had grown suddenly^stern. As they came together again at the call of time it was he who became at once the aggressor. Only his marvelous foot work saved
him from disaster time and again as he sent home blows that rocked the big man on his heels.
It was following one of Stokie’s famous long range tries for the chin, fortunately for Nevilles avoided by him, that the end came suddenly. As the big fellow swayed to recover balance Nevilles shot home a shower of blows to the body.
Stokie caught his breath hard and slowly wilted to his knees.
Rudolph, watch in hand, stepped forward and counted nine slowly.
“He’s out,” he announced.
Nevilles went back to the vanquished Stokie and knelt beside him. The aviator blinked up into his conqueror’s face.
“So you put me away?” he said wonderingly.
“No,” said Nevilles, “simply tired you out, old man.” Stokie sat up and rubbed his eyes.
“It wasn’t you beat me,” he groaned. “It was the dope. Now, I reckon it’s up to me to try for a come-back. I’m going to fight the hardest battle I’ve ever taken on, Mr. Webster, but I’m going to put old Coke down for the count same as it put me.”
CHAPTER XXI Nevilles Has A Visitor
NEVILLES was taking a shower bath when old Robbins hobbled into the room.
“What is it?” he called, as the servant coughed apologetically.
“A lady to see you, sir.”
Nevilles stepped from the spray and with a coarse towel began to take a rub-down. “Did you say a lady, Robbins?”
“Yes, sir; I ’ave ’er card here, sir. I’ll just be leavin’ it on the table.”
“Very well. Tell the lady I’ll be down in five minutes.”
Robbins went out and Nevilles quickly dressed. He picked up the card and his heart gave a wild leap. He went down stairs slowly and along to the reception room.
Myra Huntingdon was standing by the window, the slenderness of her figure accentuated by the clinging lines of the white crepe dress she was wearing. There was something tragic, something pitiful in the face half averted from him. But when she turned slowly at his respectful “Good morning” that face with its wide eyes and scarlet lips held only scorn.
He pushed a deep arm chair toward her. “Won’t you sit down?” he invited.
But she remained standing, her unwavering gaze fixed contemptuously upon him.
“All that I can hope is that despite everything, you may still possess sufficient of the instincts of a gentleman not to misconstrue my action in coming to you this morning,” he said, speaking with apparent effort.
“There was something I had to ask you— Mr. Webster, something which I think only you can answer.”
“Please tell me, then, is it true that you have said that if possible you will prevent the rebuilding of the tenement district homes?”
A look of surprise followed by one of eager intentness flashed to his face.
“I don’t remember having said that,” he returned evasively.
“Then what the papers say is untrue?”
“Just -what do the papers say? Do they claim that I made any such statement?”
“No,” she answered. “Hardly. They simply say that you will oppose a certain philanthropist’s project.”
“Ah,” he smiled, “that’s different, isn’t it?”
“You admit then that you will fight Mr. Turnbull?” “Miss Huntingdon,” Nevilles replied, “it is not my intention to allow Turnbull to rebuild the tenement district if I can help it, and I am reasonably sure that I can.” “Oh,” she gasped, recoiling from him. “That—that is all I wanted to know,” she faltered, making as though to pass him.
He stepped aside as she swept towrard the door.
SHE turned slowly and the blood leaped to his temples at the flaming scorn in her eyes.
“Oh,” she choked, “that I could be so utterly deceived in—you! Wiry did I believe you to be anything but what you are? Will you tell me,” she asked, “what it was prompted you to deceive me as you have done?”
“Need you ask?” he answered, his face set and stern. “Good God! WTtat man wouldn’t deceive if by so doing he might win a little bit of happiness?”
Her lip curled. Continued on page 40 Her lip curled.
Continued from page 31
“Please don’t make yourself more contemptible than you are,” she said scathingly. “You are a man without a single redeeming quality. Why,” she cried, “do you think for one moment I would have met you, talked with you, got—”
She broke off and gripped the back of a chair with little gloved hands.
“If you had known that I was David Webster? No. That’s why I deceived you, Myra Huntingdon.”
“And,” she whispered, “supposing I had not found out? What then? How far would you have gone?”
He moved swiftly to where she stood. His face was as white as her own as he lifted her trembling hands and held them close in his.
“How far would I have gone?” he repeated softly. “Just as far as you would go with me. To the heights or to the depths. It would not matter so long as you were there.”
He relinquished her hands and stood back.
“And now you know why I deceived you, tried to make you think me not all bad.”
She laughed and the liquid notes of its mockery fell like molten lead on his soul.
She stood back trembling.
“I wonder why God allows such creatures as you to live?” she asked whisperingly.
“ ’Tis one of His unfathomable mysteries, I suppose,” he shrugged, and she shuddered at the cynical callousness of his words.
He bowed and stepping to the door opened it.
From the window he watched her enter her little blue runabout and speed down the wide avenue between the monarch trees.
Then he turned slowly away and sat down, nursing his head in his hands. The faint odor of jasmine lingered in the room. He could see her standing there still, tall, straight and accusing as an angel.
HE STIRRED erect at old Robbins’ touch on his arm. He was wanted on the telephone.
“Robbins,” he sighed as he arose, “it’s hell having to live up to a reputation, isn’t it?”
The old servant nodded his white head. “If I might make so bold as to suggest it, sir,” he answered, “it’s more ’ell tryin’ to live down to one.”
Nevilles glanced at him sharply. The old man’s dim eyes were gazing at him calmly, affectionately.
“I wonder,” he mused as he left the room, “if the old chap suspects me? There are times when I think so.”
He went down to the telephone to answer his call. It was Jonas Haight. He wanted to know if Nevilles could meet him in Trollivor’s office inside the hour. It was most important.
“Has Trollivor turned up yet?” he asked guardedly.
“No,” came the petulant voice in response. “That’s it. We’ve got to find him.”
“I don’t see that we can do much,” Nevilles replied. “It’s up to those trained sleuths of yours, it seems to me.”
“They’re completely baffled,” groaned Haight.
“Have you tried the sanitoriums?” Nevilles suggested. “Trollivor impressed me as being under some king of nervous strain. Perhaps he’s caved under.”
“I was of like mind,” said Haight, “but he’s not in any hospital. We can’t discuss the matter further over the ’phone. Will you come as soon as you can?”
Nevilles sensed fear bordering on panic in the tones.
“I’ll be right down,” he said and hung up the receiver.
Haight was pacing nervously up and down the floor when three quarters of an hour later Nevilles entered Trollivor’s office. Nevilles walked straight over and stood above the older man.
“Mr. Haight,” he said in cold, deliberate tones, “I want to know just what your game is.” “My game!”
Haight drew back and his hand closed on a heavy mahogany ruler as thsmgh he feared an attack from his questioner.
“Why have you had Trollivor spirited away?”
“My God!” panted Haight. “Why should I have Trollivor spirited away? ' I would give ten thousand dollars this minute to be able to have him back here.”'
“Meaning,” said Nevilles, “it’s going to cost you more than that ii he doesn’t come?”
Haight shivered. His nervous fingers flashed out and clutched Nevilles’ sleeve.
“If Trollivor isn’t found to-day—” he said, and paused with a click in his throat.
Nevilles’ eyes narrowed and his lips twisted grimly.
“So that’s how it is? Trollivor has disappeared and with him the papers pertaining to the purchase of the half interest in the Western Oil Lands—and ten thousands dollars part purchase price.”
“And you are afraid of Turnbull?”
“Yes, damn you, I am!” cried the goaded man. “He’ll think—”
“That Trollivor has absconded with the money and that you are in collusion with him? Of course he will. Has Trollivor skipped?”
“No, no,” groaned Haight.
HE SANK down on a chair. The hawklike eyes had lost their old fire. There were deep purple lines beneath them. The whole bearing of the man was one of broken spirit.
Nevilles’ frowning face relaxed as he gazed upon him. There is something pitiful in stark, abject fear.
“Mr. Haight,” he said, leaning forward, “over the phone you said something about having searched the city hospitals. Have you any reason for suspecting that Trollivor’s mind—that he was worrying over anything?”
“Of late he has been acting queerly,” Haight admitted.
“In what way?”
“Well, for instance, he has acquired a mania for staying out late at night, as though he weresearching forsomeonewho was lost. I’ve been anxious; have had him followed. He haunts the tenement district like a ghost.”
Nevilles smiled oddly.
“Perhaps,” he suggested, “he has an enemy and is hunting for him.”
Plaight shook his head.
“In that case he would go armed. No, it’s not an enemy.”
Haight lifted his head with something of his old spirit.
“How much do you know of Trollivor’s past life?” he asked hoarsely.
“I’m simply trying to learn something of it now,” Nevilles answered. “You
asked me to help you find him, didn’t: you?”
tt “Yes, yes.” answered Haight qiaicklÿ. ‘And he has an enemy; whom, I do not know. But there’s a certain man whom he fears; and that man is somewherein this city. So much Trollivor told me.”
u X ldl> ......
and money in the safe yonde-r?” Nevilles suggested.
. “No,” groaned Haight, “I have looked m the safe. Ï have the combination. We’ve got to find Trollivor to-day,” he cried wildly.
“You mean we’ve got to find the papers and money to-day. You’re not so particular about Trollivor, I take it ?”
Haight was silent.
‘It seems to me,” said Nevilles, his manner suddenly, changing “that nobody gives one little damn as to the manner I have been treated in this matter. It’s my money and papers that are gone. I’m the loser, as I see it. Now, what’s to hinder me from turning round and demanding a few things for myself? Why shouldn’t I raise a hue and cry after this defaulter, Trollivor? Hasn’t he proveni himself a rogue, a man utterly unfitted for the trust I imposed in him? Hasn’t he?*' he thundered.
“Good heavens, man, not so louci,” quavered Haight.
“Why,” demanded Nevilles, “did you trust Trollivor with the papers and money? Why didn’t you hang onto them yourself? You are the safer of the pair, because you lack the nerve to try for a get-away.”
“I wish to God I had kept them myself,” wailed the tormented man.
Nevilles inserted a hand in his inside breast pocket and drew out a package. He threw it on the table in front of Haight. The older man’s shaking fingers closed on it, opened it.
Before him lay the lost papers and ten crisp one thousand dollar bills.
He gazed dully up at Nevilles.
“What does this mean?” he managed to ask.
“Simply that I’m still looking out for David Webster’s interests,” he replied. “This will save you from Turnbull’s wrath, I think. I believe that’s all you ask, unless,” he added “you still desire I should find Trollivor?”
He walked to the door. Haight was crouched against the table, fingers gripped on the money. He looked up, his face working with maniacal fury.
“Damn Trollivor!” he gnashed. “As for you,” he cried, anger sweeping him in furious gusts, “you’ll get what’s coming to you in good time.”
The door opened and closed. But Nevilles’ cynical laugh still rang in Haight’s ears as he tottered to the phone and asked central for Turnbull’s number.
To be Continued