The Copper Disc
in which love’s young dream is interrupted and a Knight errant flees from the law
The story: Morley Kent, senior partner of the firm of Kent and Powers, electrical engineers, literally skids into adventure when a taxi in which he is a passenger crashes into a car carrying Gladys Hensley, daughter of Angus Hensley, millionaire radio manufacturer, whom he rescues from an embarrassing situation following the accident. Friendship develops between the two and Kent learns that Gladys is under the influence of a mysterious power which at times seems to be able to control her will.
Kent suspects that Professor Martin Herzton, technical adviser to the Hensley firm, is in some way responsible for this control. Herzton is obviously interested in Gladys, as is also Gordon Brace, a friend of the Hensley family. Brace and Kent join forces in an effort to clear up the mystery of the "spell”, and Herzton at once counters by sending his agent,
Peter Galut, to Kent with the story that Brace is plotting to secure a patent which the Hensley firm needs to perfect a new radio development.
Galut is shot by a fixed revolver in the drawer of a desk in Brace’s office while attempting to secure evidence that his story about Brace is correct.
After the shooting, Brace explains to Kent that. Herzton himself is trying to secure the patent in his own name and, with the police on his trail, he leaves for Northern Ontario to search for Miles Freeman, the holder of the much wanted patent.
Herzton summons Kent to his laboratory and declares that he has in his possession Kent’s fingerprints, and. that these correspond with those found on the body of the dead Galut.
He threatens Kent with the knotvledge.
Herzton prevails on Gladys to substitute for a prima donna who is to sing Schubert’s "Song of Love” over the radio, and subsequently proposes to her, but is rebuffed. Kent, calling Gladys expectantly on the telephone, is mysteriously informed by the maid that she does not desire to see him, but later the same evening he manages to speak to her in person and learns that his original message was not delivered. He proposes to Gladys and is accepted.
TT WAS late when Kent left Gladys at Hensley House
that night. On the drive home, still floating in a current of ecstatic emotions, they had discussed their immediate plans. Kent must set out at once to find Freeman, and, if possible, Brace; it was likely the search which discovered one would also locate the other. To this extent he would carry out his pact with Herzton.
“When must you leave?” Gladys asked him, when their farewells could be prolonged no further.
“The sooner the better. I want to get there, and get it over with, and then back to you. We shall
outwit our foxy friend. What will he say when he hears of our engagement?”
A wave of color in the girl’s cheeks made her, in the eyes of Kent, irresistibly adorable. She was too bewitching to let go. He drew her to him again.
“One thing troubles me,” she said at length, and her eyes were sober now. “It, is a little hard to mention, but I know you will understand. Your journey will cost money. You must not be hampered for means. And it is our job . . not yours. Don’t you see?”
“I see that you are a very thoughtful little girl. Really, I haven’t had time to think of money; my mind has been filled with something else so much more precious. I have some, of course, and I can raise more, but it might take a few days
“And those days must not be lost,” she interrupted. “Leave that part of it to me. It’s for us, and we have a right to supply the capital. I’ll see dad in the morning, and tell him . . . enough to get his name on the dotted line.”
“Then I’ll leave at noon.” They parted on that understanding.
He had scarce reached the street when a car pulled up beside him. It was Gladys in the roadster.
“How crazy I am, letting you walk home or take a street car, when I can perfectly well drive you!” And so they had a few more minutes together, and another parting at 426 Eleventh Street.
George, the night elevator-man, was disposed to be talkative. “You haven’t been doing any crimes, I hope, Mr. Kent.,” he observed, as they went up in the car together.
“I hope not, too,” Kent answered with a smile. But in his blue heaven loomed suddenly an ominous cloud, a cloud that the wonderful events of the night, which were to culminate in making Gladys Hensley his wife, had for the moment driven out of his consciousness. “Why?” he asked, trying still to keep the smile alight.
“Well, there was a policeman here asking for you; a big bruiser, with a head like a quarter o’ beef. Maybe it was just an automobile summons or something; he said he’d be back in the morning.”
“He’s evidently not afraid I will clear out, anyway, or he wouldn’t have given that notice,” Kent laughed, as he got off at his floor. But a chill had touched the warmth of his heart. On a night when he had thought, tobe supremely happy, a vague sense of impending danger began to hold him in its grip. He tried to throw it off with the thought of his amazing good fortune, but lie realized that Herzton still had cards up his sleeve, and it was impossible to guess when or where lie would play them.
He was shaving next morning when a thump came on the door.
"Come in,” he called. "This will be our policeman friend, and we soon shall know the worst,” he commented to himself.
A big round head, close coupled to a big, round body, filled the doorway.
“Why, it’s my friend Murphy,” Kent exclaimed. "Come in.”
“I was just doin’ that,” Murphy remarked. “It seems to me it’r, always shavin’ ye are.”
“.Just a coincidence. I hear you were looking for me last night.”
were looking me
“I was down this way when I was off duty, and I just dropped in to have a word with ye. This mornin’ I haven’t so much time.”
His hand went to his head, massaging it gently.
“It was good of you to come at all,” Kent rejoined. “What’s on your mind?”
The big policeman seemed to be struggling with something in his short neck. “Me boy, ye’re not in any kind o’ trouble?” he managed, at length.
“Not in particular. Just managed to get myself engaged last, night to the most wonderful girl in the world, if that’s trouble.”
“Faith, it’s the beginnin’ av it.,” said Murphy, taking his errand for the moment less seriously. “Would an o' 1 roughneck like me be likely to know the unfortunate young woman?”
“I believe you do. Remember Miss Hensley, who was at the inquest the one you drummed me up to, when I had the honor of first meeting you?” The sudden relief Kent found in Murphy’s call sent him spinning again into a world of rainbow huas.
“What, millionaire Hensley’s daughter? Indade I do. It’s a lucky man ye are, Mr. Kent, and it makes me feel the more there .can be nothin’ in me misgivin’s, but I want a word wid ye anyway. Ye were kind o’ civil to me when I called on ye a couple o’ weeks ago, an’ I said to myself: ‘If I can do that young divil a good turn some day I’ll do it, or me name’s not Murphy—which it is. Now I may be all wrong. Mr. Kent, an’ I’ll sure be all wrong if it’s ever found out that I’ve come tattlin’ to ye about it, but I heard some talk in the
station last night that, made me oneasy, about fingerprints bein’ turned in o’ a young fellow named Kent, which it seems were oidintical wi’ those found on the body of the man Galut. that was shot the other day. Av coorse, Kent’s a common name, an’ it couldn’t be you, especially with you engaged to ould Hensley’s daughter, but I thought I’d tip ye off, jus’ the same. They’re jus’ waitin’ the w'ord, I believe, to round him up. But I’m glad ye’re not mixed up with it, Mr. Kent. The law’s a bad thing to get into.”
Herzton! He had played his hand already.
Kent assorted these facts instantly in his mind, but he held his composure. “It was good of you to let me know, anyway,” he said. “There is always the danger of mistaken identities, and forewarned is forearmed. Now, how about some ham and eggs?”
“I’d like to, fine, but I’m overlong already. Good day, Mr. Kent, and I hope ye’ll excuse me meddlin’ in yer affairs, an’ it’s wishin’ ye much happiness wi’ yer young lady, I am.” With as much dignity as his figure would permit, Murphy saluted and withdrew.
I/'ENT lost no time in getting down to his office, where he acquainted Powers with his engagement to Gladys, and with the knight’s errand upon which he proposed to embark with the noon train northward.
“Well, you work fast,” Powers commented. “If you were to put as much horsepower into your inventing as you do into your love-making Edison and Marconi w'ould both be also-rans. But I congratulate you,
Morley.” He seized his partner’s hand and wrung it warmly. “It isn’t every day a fellow gets engaged to a million dollars.”
“Thanks, old man. But, believe me, the million dollars have nothing to do with it.”
“We’ll take that as read,” Powers agreed. “But just the same, don’t throw it over board. We may need it to keep you out of jail, since you insist upon getting tangled up in a mess that doesn’t concern you.”
"It concerns Gladys, and that’s enough for me, and I’m not figuring on accepting any free board from a public institution in connection with it either,” Kent laughed. “Now I must get along. Sorry to leave all the work to you and Vee, but. it can’t be helped.”
A moment later voices were heard in the shop. Through a small pane of glass which commanded a view of the mercantile part of the establishment Kent saw two policemen in conversation with Powers. Harry seemed to have raised his voice unnecessarily high.
“If you’re so sure Kent’s here, find him,” he shouted. “Go to it. The shop is yours.”
The next moment Kent was out through a rear door which opened on a lane. He ran along the lane to its intersection with the street and w'histled for a taxi. As luck would have it there was none in sight.
Glancing back he saw the two policemen in the lane, already hurrying toward him.
To run through the streets, hotly pursued by two officers of the law, was to invite derision as well as capture. Kor an instant Kent
hesitated, and in that instant a lean roadster pulled up beside him.
“Ready?" It was Gladys speaking.
Kent sprang into the car just as the policemen reached the sidewalk.
“Step on it," he commanded.
“They’re after me.”
The girl’s toe went down on the accelerator, and the car, tuned to perfection by the trusty Williams, sprang forward like a greyhound.
Disregarding all traffic signals,
Gladys raced it into the more open thoroughfare of an adjoining street.
“What’s up?” she asked, when she had time to breathe.
“Herzton has turned in my fingerprints,” he told her, as she threaded her way, still at a pace which snapped angry epithets from other drivers, fortunately drowned from the girl’s ears in the din of traffic behind them. “I got a tip this morning, but I didn’t expect action so soon. You arrived right in the nick of time.”
She laughed. “It is a good omen,” she said. “It means that you are going to be lucky all through.”
“Racing through these streets with all the city police after me isn’t just my idea of good luck,” he demurred.
Presently he began to take note of the route she was following. “We’ll never get to the station this way,” he challenged. “And it’s there I will run my greatest risk.”
“I’m not taking you to the station, and you’re not going to run any risk,” she answered.
By this time she had swung on to Lake Boulevard and was humming along in the direction of Hensley House. “Whatever is she planning?” Kent wondered. “Going to take me to her home until the hunt blows over?”
But she did not turn in at the Hensley gate. Instead she continued her course along the lake. The residences thinned out; the lighter traffic made the drive like country going, and the roadster writhed as Gladys sent the speed up to its limit.
Presently they rounded a headland. In the water of the bay in front, close by the shore, lay a hydroplane. Gladys pulled up as close as the beach would permit, and a young man in aviator’s togs appeared from among the trees.
“She’s all set, Miss Hensley.” “Well, get her spinning. The police are after us, and there’s not a minute to waste.”
With something of a start Kent had recognized in the aviator the chauffeur Williams.
“Williams will pilot you,” Gladys answered the query in his eyes. “He’s thoroughly competent; war experience, and everything, and he’s a friend of the family, which may count before you’re through. Now, you had
better be on your way. Oh, I very nearly forgot.”
She drew a thick envelope from one of the pockets of the car.
“Money,” she said, simply. “Wire for more if you need it.”
The plane was humming. Around the headland behind them came a car travelling at high speed.
“Hurry,” she exclaimed. Then, for an impetuous moment, she caught him in her arms. For an instant they clung together, his lips on hers. Suddenly she thrust him away. The car was bearing down rapidly upon them.
“Do hurry,” she pleaded.
“But what will they do to you?”
“Nothing. Nothing. Oh, you are risking everything.”
The car had stopped beside the roadster. Policemen were springing out of it. Even as they rushed down to the beach Kent splashed through the water and swung into the seat in front of Williams. He turned to throw a kiss to Gladys, and to wave a farewell to the discomfited officers. The plane was already gaining speed. Like a wild fowl of the air it skimmed along the surface of the lake, then gradually felt its wings and lifted into its own element from the surface of the water.
Gladys and her ample escort watched it as it rose, circled, turned northward, and quickly faded out of view.
EVERYTHING had happened so quickly that it was some minutes before Kent could realize he actually was in the air, speeding northward in the search for Miles Freeman and a contract covering patents so highly prized that one life had been lost over them already and a mystery created which was baffling the police. He watched the familiar landscape drop away below him, the glimmer of the lake die out to the southeast, the smoke of the city fade like a cloud carried in the teeth of a gale.
Presently he began to be aware that he was cold. His straw hat had blown off before they left the water, and thp wind was piercing his summer clothing like a blast of arrows. His hand still clutched the package which Gladys had thrust into it as they left the car. He placed it inside his shirt for safer keeping and tightened his coat about him.
Williams at the controls seemed to have no thought for his passenger. His attention was focused upon the operation of his plane. But the machine was behaving splendidly, the sky was clear, the air was steady, and they sped on, mile after mile, without incident.
Suddenly Williams seemed to recall something which for the moment had slipped his mind. Reaching down beside his seat he drew out an aviator’s cap and handed it forward to Kent. This was followed by a heavy jacket. When Kent had arrayed himself in this additional clothing the prospect of freezing to death on a hot June day seemed more remote.
The noise of the motor and the rush of air made conversation impracticable, and in any case Kent felt that he had nothing to communicate which would justify taking Williams’ undivided attention from his job. No doubt, the worthy chauffeur had received full instructions for at least the first lap of the journey and knew what he was doing.
Accepting this assumption Kent settled back in his seat and began to feel more comfortable and at ease.
The occasion afforded opportunity for reflection, and his mind went back over the incidents of the past two weeks. It was now Saturday noon; a week ago Tuesday —less than eleven days, to be exact—he first had seen Gladys Hensley. He recalled her now, bejewelled as she had come from some fashionable gathering, standing in the rain beside the wreck of Gordon Brace’s car. It was hard to realize that less than eleven days ago Gladys and he had been utter strangers. When he thought of their intimate session by the lake below the crescent moon, of their parting on the beach an hour ago, the realization seemed impossible.
Gradually he linked events together. The inquest over the taxi victim; the visit to the Hensley home when Gladys had fainted with the sudden recoil of her
emotions: the dinner party, with the peculiar behavior of Gladys, and the ominous Manners flitting in and out behind the scenes; the visit to Herzton’s laboratory; the interviews with Brace and Galut; the tragedy in the old factory building; the motor ride with Gladys and the episode of the missing steering-wheel; the second visit to Herzton—like parts of a puzzle he tried to fit them into some coherent sequence. At first he saw them only as a confused mass behind the amazing fact that Gladys Hensley had promised to be his wife, but gradually another fact insistently emerged—the fact that the sinister influence to which Gladys was subject was as far from explanation as ever. Kent’s suspicion that Herzton was the power behind that influence had deepened into certainty, but of proof or explanation he had not a shred.
He recalled the occasions upon which he had known her to be under that influence: the demand for speed in Brace’s car, and later in the taxi; the peculiar behavior Át the inquest; the rebuff to him at the dinner party; the part played in the steering-wheel incident; the refusal to admit him into Hensley House only last night. Here were at least five occasions within eleven days. Five to his knowledge; how many without? That was a disquieting thought. He preferred to dismiss it, and to remember how she had trusted in him for protection. She had said, only last night, that she knew if she could reach him he would save her. His presence seemed to be a sort of insulation about her.
Then came a still more disquieting thought. For days, weeks, perhaps months, she would be deprived of his presence. Could it be doubted that so astute a rival as Herzton would turn that fact tc his own advantage?
Kent almost sprang from his'seat as his mind grasped a new interpretation of the day’s events. Was it possible Herzton had engineered the whole thing to ensure Kent’s absence and clear the field for his own designs? . . . Instantly it was as clear as day. The turning in of the fingerprints—that meant imprisonment or flight, either of which would suit Herzton’s purposes equally well.
Like a caged thing Kent gnashed his teeth. He had fallen into the trap. He wras being spirited away into the northern wilds. That Gladys and Williams were innocent parties to the tragedy made it no less overwhelming. And there was no going back: to go back meant arrest. He was now in the same boat with Gordon Brace. By one master stroke of strategy Herzton had got rid of both his rivals. Even of Williams, who might have been a faithful watchdog about Hensley House. Herzton and Manners were now assured uninterrupted opportunity for whatever diabolical schemes they were capable of hatching.
Kent had uneventful hours in which to think the situation over, and his first chagrin gradually made way for a reasoned course of action. He must carry out his mission, find Brace and Freeman, and the three must go back together, piece out the facts they knew, and lay the whole thing before the police. In the meantime, he must trust that Gladys’ love for him would be proof against every influence that could be brought to bear. In that confidence he became content and began to take notice of the landscape floating by a mile below him.
“Our driver seems to know where he is going, at any rate,” Kent commented to himself. Williams had not consulted a chart or map since he took the air. He seemed to be flying by the compass and his knowledge of the country underneath. At length his attention seemed to centre on one of the many verdure-clad lakes, as like to its neighbors, in Kent’s untrained eyes, as two silver dollars. Williams crossed the lake, then banked, circled, and began to descend.
The lake was not more than two or three miles in circumference. Gradually the plane drew down to its bosom, as still and silent as a sheet of glass, and took the water like a bird. It came to a stop in front of a boathouse, which, partly hidden by the forest, had escaped Kent’s attention until that moment.
Williams manoeuvred his craft against a little wharf that jutted into the water, and clambered out over the wing. Kent, his limbs numb with their long inactivity, clumsily followed his example.
“Well, here we are,” said Williams, drawing off his cap and gauntlets. “How did you enjoy your trip?”
“Couldn’t have been better, once I saw that you were on to your job and knew where you were going. I hadn’t heard that you were a flyer.”
“Oh, I did my stuff in the war, along with the rest of ’em, and I still fly a bit, just to keep my hand in. It proved useful this time. What were the police after?”
“Are you to stay with me?” Kent queried, disregarding the question.
“As long as you need me. That’s my orders.”
“Good. I think we shall get along well together. And I’ll tell you the whole story at the first opportunity. But where are we, and why?”
“We happen to be at the summer home of Mr.
Angus Hensley. There are a few odd thousand lakes up in this country which are being gradually picked up by those who can afford to get away from the rush of business for a few weeks in the summer. I’ve flown this course before, and on a clear day like this it is as easy as crossing the street. We’ll just anchor the machine and look over the premises.”
Williams produced a key and unlocked the boathouse; the warm, imprisoned air, heavy with the smell of tar and paint, caught their nostrils. There were two slips with motor boats, a skiff pulled up on the floor alongside, and three or four canoes on a rack. From a toolhouse at the back Williams produced a coil of rope, and they made the hydroplane safe to the wharf.
Through the trees, at a little higher level, Kent had caught a glimpse of a building which he supposed to be the Hensley summer home. They followed a winding path up from the beach, and presently the building, sitting back in a small open space, came full into view. It was modest enough in its exterior appearance; a two-story frame house, stained a cedar-brown that harmonized with its background of spruce and hemlock, with wide verandahs overlooking the lake, and windows secured with wooden shutters locked on the inner side. But the lawn had been recently cut; flower beds were blooming within little ramparts of whitewashed stones, and up the hillside behind stretched a kitchen garden with vegetable growth.
“There is a caretaker, of course?” Kent enquired.
“No one in residence, but a Frenchman who lives on the next lake over the ridge keeps the lawns in order and plants the garden. No doubt he’ll be here if he sees us, to oust the intruders. In the meantime -perhaps you’re not hungry?”
“Perhaps I am.” Kent had been remembering for some time that he had not eaten since morning, and the sun was now pouring in orange-colored strips through a fringe of trees on the hilltops to the west. The lake, already in the shadows, lay like a turquoise gem set in a frame of solid green.
They went inside, unlocked a number of shutters, and let a gentle evening breeze which was stirring on the hillside blow through. The interior consisted of a large room with a great fireplace of boulder stone in one wall, a hall, and a kitchen. A stairway led to rooms above. The furnishings suggested the frontier and the wilderness, the craftsmanship of French-Canadian handymen hidden away in the valleys between these majestic hills. The Hensley luxury was evidently confined to their city home on Lake Boulevard; here was simplicity, but with simplicity, comfort and rest.
Williams had dragged up a bundle from the plane. He now opened out bacon, beans, bread, molasses. A store room in the basement disclosed a stock of tea, coffee, sugar, canned goods, left over from the previous season and still as good as ever. Kent started a fire in the great kitchen range and brought wrater from a spring down by the lake. The crackle of the wood fire
and the drip of water from a tin pail took him back to his boyhood on the farm.
When the kettle was steaming Kent looked about for Williams, who was nowhere to be seen, but in a few minutes he came rushing in with a three-pound trout dangling from a line.
They cooked trout and bacon and spread their meal on a table covered with clean, white oilcloth.
After supper they cleared their dishes and Williams found a box of good cigars that were not too dry to be smoked with relish. Then they sat on the wide verandah and watched the slow twilight of the north enwrap lake and mountain in its shadowy folds.
For a whole cigar they sat in silence. It was hard to realize that they were only half a day from hustle and hurry and noise. Here was the world as God made it, and they were not sure that man had accomplished as much improvement as he likes to think.
Kent turned to a consideration of his companion. A man to whom he had taken a liking from the first. A man who had proved his skill that day beyond all question. A man with a war record; perhaps a very creditable war record
“Some of my friends call me Morley,” he said. “It’s not a very handy name, but I’m not to blame for that. I suppose you were christened, too?”
“Frank,” said Williams, simply.
Then they sat on again, while the shadows deepened, enveloped in a silence so acute they almost could feel it. Stars, amazingly brilliant, were coming out overhead, and the faint flicker of aurora was in the northern sky.
“I was wondering,” Williams said at last, “how long it would have been in the city before you would have wanted to call me by my first name.”
“Never,” Kent admitted, candidly.
A cold air stirred across the verandah, and Williams got to his feet.
“Even in summer it’s cool here at night—always cool enough to sleep. It isn’t the latitude so much as the altitude,” he explained. “Let us build a fire in the fireplace and then we can talk.”
It was midnight or later, and the birch logs had burned down to a ruddy glow, when the two men got up from before the fire.
“I’m with you, all the way, Morley,” said Williams, as he extended his hand. “I believe your suspicions are right, and I’m going to help you prove them. But the
first thing is to get. Freeman and Brace. We’ll make another lap tomorrow with the plane, hut after that we’ll have to lay her up - side her away in one of these million lakes. The police up here will have a description of the machine and he all set to welcome us.”
Williams found candles, pushed the coals well back into the chimney, and led the way upstairs. He stopped at a linen closet.
“Ever sleep in a millionaire’s pyjamas?” “Not yet.”
“Well, this is your big night. This looks like a pair of Mr. Hensley’s. You’ll fill them in one direction, if not the other. I can probably scare up a razor and tooth brush for you in the morning. Here are sheets and blankets.”
He showed Kent into a large room with plain pine flooring, a bed with naked mattress against one wall, a pine washstand opposite.
He threw the sheets on the bed. “You'll have to be your own chambermaid. Grab a good sleep when you have the chance. Tomorrow’s Sunday, so we can lie in; five o’clock will be early enough.”
Kent was no amateur at making his bed, and in a few minutes had it in readiness. As he undressed a package slipped from his clothing. He picked it up, and held it somewhat gingerly in his hand as though it might have explosive qualities.
“I had forgotten all about you,” he confessed. “Better see how Gladys has provided for us.”
The thought of Gladys wafted him to another planet. Amid the peace and quiet of this forest home the world of ambition and intrigue seemed unreal and impossible.
The package was securely tied with a strong string. He undid it carefully and opened it out on the bed. It contained one hundred sheets of brown wrappingpaper cut the size of a dollar bill !
UOR a full minute Kent sat too amazed for speech or motion. Then he began to fumble slowly the mocking little sheets in his fingers. At length reason returned, and he shouted for Williams.
That worthy came scurrying down the passage. “Heavens!” he cried. "I thought a bear must be climbing in at your window." Then, noticing the package spread on the blanket, “What have you there?”
“Until two minutes ago I thought I had a pocketful of money. This is what I find.” He explained briefly about the package Gladys had handed him.
Williams sat down on the bed and they started to think it out together.
“1 know about the package,” Williams said, “because I went down to the bank for it. The arrangements were made by telephone. Miss Gladys handed me the cheque. ‘Williams,’ she said, ‘go to the bank and get that money and bring it up at once. It will be ready for you.’ Ten thousand dollars it was.”
“Ten thousand dollars!”
“Yes. I saw it on the cheque. They know me at the bank, as I often do confidential errands of that kind for the family, and they handed me the package. I hurried back and gave it to Miss Gladys.”
“Well, somebody tapped it, either at the bank or somewhere in between,” Kent summarized the situation ruefully. “Ten thousand dollars!”
Suddenly Williams sprang from the bed. “I have it!” he shouted. “I have it! It’s as plain as printing.”
“If you have it, hand it over,” Kent ordered, ironically. “It was intended for me.”
“I don’t mean I’ve got the money. I’ve got the secret.”
“That won’t buy much gasoline.”
“It may be mighty valuable, just the same. Mannie, that’s the little bird ! You know, Manners—we call her Mannie about the house. No doubt she heard the
telephoning and managed to get her fingers on the package long enough to substitute the brown paper. She would have it all cut and ready. It could be done in a minute.”
Kent pondered that possibility. “I believe Manners is an accomplice of Herzton’s,” he said at length, “but I didn’t put her down for a thief.”
“Nor I,” Williams agreed. “But there’s more than thievery in this. Of course, ten thousand dollars isn’t to be whisked off with a clothes brush. Lots of people’s honesty doesn’t reach the ten thousand dollar mark. Besides, this little trick was destined to leave you stranded in the wilderness. And . . . by Jove, don’t you see?”—Williams’ tanned face was flushed with sudden excitement—“it was going to put you in wrong. The police after you; ten thousand dollars delivered to your care; you fly up here to this lonely place; disappear from civilization for a month or two; then suddenly turn up with a fine story about the package being stuffed with brown paper. Who would believe that? The bank would swear they put the money in the package; I would swear I delivered it to Miss Hensley; she would have to swear she gave it to you and it would be prison bars for little Morley! Herzton and Mannie will bank on you having intelligence enough to think it through to the end, and, when you see the trap in which you are caught, discreetly staying out of the reach of the police.”
“It sounds reasonable,” Kent agreed. “Now, what is the next move?”
Williams was standing by the window, looking across the lake, over which the moon was just rising. Kent came to him, and for a minute or two they stood together, watching the silent scene . . . Only last night, under that same moon, he had held Gladys in his arms . . .
“I think I know,” Williams said at length. “There were a hundred slips in that package. That would indicate that there had been a hundred bills. At that rate each bill was for a hundred dollars. Now is it likely a bank would make up a package of one hundred hundred-dollar bills without taking note of the numbers?” “By George, you’re right. We’ll wire Gladys to get the numbers, and have detectives put on the trail. How far is it to the nearest telegraph office?”
“No, I don’t think we’d better wire Gladys. Mannie would be likely to see the wire.”
“Frank, I take off my hat to you, figuratively speaking. You’re a genius. Go ahead.”
“My suggestion is that I should wire the bank. They know me, you see. There’s a telegraph office six miles from here, at the end of the next lake. There’s a short portage, but we can carry a canoe over. It may not be open on Sunday, but if we go early we’ll catch the operator before he leaves for his day’s fishing. Fortunately we’re not quite broke. I have a couple of hundred in my jeans, tucked away for emergency.”
“I have about fifty.”
“Good. That makes two hundred and fifty. Up in this country they float a gold mine on less cash than that.”
On the side of the bed, using one of the brown paper slips, they drafted a telegram. Then, his mind again at ease, Kent slipped under the covers, bade his friend good night, and the next moment—so it seemed -Williams was again at the door.
“It’s good form to take a plunge in the lake,” he suggested. “There are no ladies about, and bathing suits are unnecessarily formal.”
Kent followed him down the path. The still air was full of the scents of early morning and the songs of birds. The deep green of the lake lay below them like a glassy meadow.
After a brisk swim and a quick breakfast they launched one of the canoes and set out for the telegraph office. They made the trip without difficulty, but found the place locked.
"Operator sleeps upstairs,” Williams explained. “Better await his pleasure. He isn’t obliged to take messages on Sunday, and it doesn’t put anybody in good humor to be awakened when he wants to sleep.”
For an hour or more they sat on the station platform, drinking in the silence of that golden Sunday morning. Cities and civilization seemed very far away, but Nature, with her finer wisdom, was all about them. In spite of the strain of baffling problems, their souls were strangely at peace.
They were disturbed from their reverie by the swinging of the station door. The operator, a young fellow of twenty-three or so, came out on the platform, dressed in shirt, trousers, and boots; his hair rumpled about his head, his eyes blinking in the bright sunshine.
“Hallo, George,” said Williams, as though they had parted the night before. “Hope we didn’t disturb your sleep.” “Hallo, Frank. Didn’t know you were up in these parts. How did you get in?” “Flew in yesterday.”
“Heard a machine,” the operator remarked, “but supposed it was a fireranger.” His eyes were on Kent.
“This is Morley Kent,” Williams explained. “Friend of the Hensleys. Came in with me yesterday.”
The two strangers shook hands, and the operator offered his cigarettes.
“Wondered if you’d mind putting a wire over for us today,” Williams suggested, when they had smoked for a minute or two. “Sorry to trouble you, but it’s rather urgent.”
Kent handed him the slip of brown paper and his eyes opened wider as he followed the pencilled lines.
“An operator isn’t supposed to know what’s in the wires he handles,” he remarked, “but this sounds interesting. Sure, I’ll send it for you.”
Inside the little station office it was cool and dark. George wakened his silent key and in a few moments was being picked up at the other end of the line. Kent and Williams listened intently as the clatter gave evidence of contact with the outside world.
“There, that’s gone,” the operator said, when the message was finished. But the key clattered out again. “Hold on, he wants me.” He reached for a telegraph blank and began taking the incoming message.
For a moment he held it quizzically in his hand. “Well, this is for me, I suppose. It’s addressed to the chief of police here, and as I’m the only resident I must be that as well as mayor and chief of the fire brigade. Listen, it may interest you: “ ‘Hold two men, Kent and Williams, travelling by airplane. Reward.’ ”
Kent broke the silence which followed. “Well, are you going to hold us?” he asked.
The operator’s puzzled face broadened into a smile. “How can I?” he asked. “Anyway, I’m not a policeman, so if you want to be on your way it goes with me.” “We planned to move along at once,” Williams explained, “and this may just speed us up a little. The fact is they’ve got the whole dope wrong—you can believe that, George—but for the moment we’ve important business and no time to make explanations to the police. The theft of that money cripples us a bit, but we’ll make it go.”
They thanked him, and crossing the warm rails of the silent track, plunged into the forest on a path leading down to the lake.
“They’re pretty hot on our trail,” W’illiams said, when they had found their gait. “We’ll fly as far as we can today, then hide our ship in one of these lakes and work our passage some other way. Fortunately there’s plenty of gasoline at the boathouse. Mr. Hensley gets in a season’s supply at a time, and this year’s shipment is now in the tanks.”
Kent’s words of agreement were cut short by a shout from the operator.
Through a gap in the trees they saw him running down the path.
“Here’s another message,” he said, when he came up with them. “Came in just as you left. It’s for you, Kent, and seems to be pretty personal.”
He had sealed it. Kent tore open the envelope and read:
“Please forget my foolishness Friday night, and all I said and promised then. You must realize that would be absurd and impossible. Gladys.”
For a moment Kent stood as one in a dream. Then he handed the yellow sheet to Williams.
“That’s Herzton again,” Williams exclaimed, when he had read the message. “Gladys never did that of her own free will.”
“No, I’m quite sure she didn’t, but if Herzton can do that in twenty-four hours, what will he do before we get back?”
The three men faced each other in silence, none venturing an answer to that question. George was the first to speak.
“Sorry, Kent. I take it the message is from Miss Hensley, and is, as I supposed, very personal. Is there any answer?” “Yes,” Kent exclaimed. “I’ll send an answer that will waken that whole household to what is going on under its roof. I’ll—”
“I think you’re wrong, Morley,” Williams interrupted. “A message is almost sure to be intercepted by Mannie and turned over to Herzton. It will just give him the satisfaction of knowing his shot has gone home.”
Kent sat down on a stump to think it over. “I guess you’re right,” he agreed at length, “as far as any direct message to Glad, is concerned. But I have another plan. Let us go back to the office.”
In the cool little room he wrote and rewrote a long message. At length he handed it to the operator. It was adressed to Miss Vera Masters . . .
rT'HE sun hung well to the westward -*• against a lemon-colored sky when Kent and Williams caught sight of the thin dark gash of a railway line underneath. Infinitely long and lonely it looked as it wound its way through the interminable forest.
All afternoon they had flown above that forest, its mottled colors of spruce, pine, poplar and birch stretching beneath them like a carpet thousands of square miles in extent. On the carpet lay prodigal coins; nickels and quarters and big round dollars, linked together by silken threads of stream or tossed into eternal isolation in the treasury of God. There were worn patches, too; ragged blotches of charred trunks or naked rock, bearing their sad witness to the “civilizing” hand of man. Once or twice then had been evidence of settlement; green meadows and growing crops. A power plant had straddled a river and a paper mill lay at its flank, but at all signs of habitation Williams had veered his machine away again over the untracked and the unknown.
“They would take us for fire-rangers, of course,” he shouted, “but there is no use leaving any clues. That’s one thing about an airplane; it may be easy to see, but it’s hard to track.”
But after crossing the railway he was plainly looking for a good place to alight. He was not long in finding it, for the country, although impossible for a land plane, seemed especially designed by Nature for its nautical brother. Selecting a long, narrow lake, Williams circled it, banked, and came down.
The upper end of the lake closed into the mouth of a small river, encased in forest so rank that the trees almost joined overhead. This was the sort of refuge Williams had been seeking. He drove the plane well up into the river’s mouth, so that it was quite hidden from the lake, and never would be detected from overhead. They climbed out over the wings
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on to a tree that had fallen into the stream, and made a dry landing.
“Well, that’s not so bad,” Williams observed, when they had stretched their cramped muscles and accustomed themselves to the feel of terra firma underfoot. “A hawk couldn’t find it here. We’ll tie her up and settle down for the night.”
They had brought blankets and a silk tent from the Hensley camp, and soon they were in comfortable quarters on a sandspit which lay high and dry near the mouth of the stream. They boiled coffee and cooked their meal. Afterward they sat and smoked while the shadows deepened across the lake.
Williams was the first to break the silence. He tapped the ashes from his pipe and put it away. “I was thinking this afternoon,” he remarked, “that we are up in the air in more ways than one. Do you know Freeman?"
“Never saw him in my life.”
“Well, I’ve seen him, and could place him in a bunch—if it wasn’t too big. But how to get our eyes on him~that’s the problem. This country’s as big as all outdoors, and he may be anywhere within a thousand miles, or farther.
“You have been working out a plan?” Kent suggested.
Williams smiled apologetically.
“I don’t know whether you would dignify it by calling it a plan,” he said, "but it’s something. There are just two railways in the part of the country where Freeman was understood to be prospecting. They are the Canadian National, from Quebec to Winnipeg, and the T. and N.Ü., from North Bay to Cochrane. That was the T. and N.O. we crossed. If he’s further south on the C.P.K., we’re out of luck; if he’s farther east we’re out of luck. I’m betting that he’s somewhere north and west. Well, he would have to use the railway as a base, and by working along the line, making discreet enquiries, we have a chance of running him down. It isn’t much of a chance,” he concluded lamely, “but it’s all I see.”
“The job is bigger than I figured," Kent admitted. “I jumped into it as though all 1 had to do was to run up north and lay my hands on him."
“If we could use the plane it wouldn't be so bad, but that telegram gave us a pretty straight tip to cover our trucks,” Williams soliloquized. “They’re sure to get us if we stay with the plane. It’s a case of the next best and a run of luck. In the morning, if you agree, we’ll hit across country until we come to the railway, follow it to the first settlement, and begin our enquiries. After all, it may not be so impossible as it looks. The country is enormous but the population is small, und at any outfitting post they may remember Freeman.”
“I’m uneasy about the police,” Kent admitted. “They have the reputation of being uncomfortably efficient up here. And here are we, two perfectly harmless chaps, manoeuvred into a position where we are afraid of the police. Old Herzton knows his job.”
Rose-colored, the setting sun glowed across the lake, drenching the rocky shores with lavender and purple. Here and there a circle formed in the glassy water as a fish flipped upward from its cool, inviting depths.
“I’ve been thinking of that,” Williams resumed. “No doubt all the facts which Herzton has, and which it suits his purpose to reveal, have been placed at the disposal of the police. They will know that, although we’re supposed to be flying from justice, literally”—he laughed at his unpremeditated pun—“we’re really up here to find Freeman. And about the surest way to fall into their hands is to go about this country enquiring for Freeman.”
“That’s how I have it sized up, too.” “So we’ll have to finesse a little. I suggest that you take the name of Freeman.”
“Yes. You look somewhat like him, and would pass for his brother. You see, you must have a new name, anyway; you can’t go around announcing that you’re Morley Kent, a gentleman wanted by the police, and you might as well call yourself Freeman. That will save enquiries. Whenever you say your name’s Freeman, if the real Freeman is known thereabouts someoine is sure to remark it, and you will get all the information you want without appearing to ask for it.”
Kent arose with deliberation, strode across the two yards of sand that separated chem, and slapped his companion soundly on the shoulder.
“By George, you are a wizard,” he exclaimed. “How do you get it? Do you know, you’ve never told me anything about yourself, and of course you don’t need to now, but when a man is likely to see only one face, day after day, he gets either interested or fed up—and I feel that I’m going to be interested. Of course, I knew the first time I heard your voice that you’re English—that’s one thing your countrymen never can conceal—”
“We don’t try. Why should we?”
“Yes, I believe that’s right. You don’t try—and why should you?”
“And you’ve been through the war,” Kent went on, when the Englishman showed no further disposition to speak, “but what else? You seem to know this country. Where did you learn it?”
There was a minute’s silence before Williams answered.
“Not much to tell . . . that would interest you,” he began. “The war shattered a good many family fortunes in England. Ours among them. And I gradually and painfully discovered that I had been educated for everything except making a living. The only training that seemed likely to pay a cash return was what I got in the war, flying a plane. I came to Canada and got a job on the forest patrol of one of the big timber companies. It was an interesting business, flying over the forests, watching for fire. Sometimes we caught it at the first wreath of smoke. Then we came down at the nearest lake and put it out ourselves. At other times it had already got its teeth in, and we had to fly back and notify the land forces. It is a bit like war, but the kind of war that builds up instead of tearing down. That’s what they are using the planes for up in this country. No world’s records, but a wonderful lot of world’s service.
“One day after a particularly heavy cruise I found myself running short of gasoline. I saw a lake, a motor launch, a boathouse, and I came down. It turned out that I had stopped at Mr. Hensley’s summer camp. I took Mr. Hensley for a flight as a return for his courtesies. For some reason he became interested in me, and before I left he offered me a job. It offered less social standing, but more money than piloting a plane, and I wasn’t long in deciding. I have been with them ever since.
“What you suspect of Herzton helps to explain a number of things which have been puzzling me, too. He has Spun an evil magic of some kind around that girl. He will play all his wiles in our absence, but I don’t think he can beat her. On that point we’ll have to trust.”
“Then you knew of it, too; the magic, I mean?”
"1 knew there was something; I didn’t know what. But I am sure now that Herzton is at the bottom of it. And our job is to beat him; beat him at every turn of the game. First, to find Freeman; the
other Freeman, you know.” He smiled gently through the gathering night.
“You, too, will need a nom de plume,” Kent suggested.
“Yes, I’d thought of that. I’d thought of Hunt. You see, it’s all a hunt. We’re hunting Freeman, and the police are hunting for us. So why not Hunt? Besides, Freeman and Hunt go together rather well.”
“I hope we always shall,” Kent answered, solemnly.
Late into the night he lay, wondering at all the strange turns of fate; wondering, as he had not wondered since a child, whether it is all a jumble of chance, or whether in and around and about it all is a directing intelligence. As he lay in this mood it seemed that Gladys Hensley drew very near. Not all body, and not all spirit, but something compounded of each. It banished from his mind the lurking ache sown by the morning’s telegram, and in its caress he fell asleep.
r“PHEY were about with the sun in the 4morning. After a dip in the lake they ate breakfast beside a little fire on their sandy beach. They saw to it that the plane was securely fastened, providing even against the contingency of a sudden flood, packed such essentials as they could reasonably carry, and started up the watercourse which, Williams was sure, would lead them to the railway.
As they made their way along the rocks which bordered the stream and afforded a narrow strip free of trees and underbrush, Williams spoke of the wealth of the country through which they were travelling.
“It isn’t so long ago that all this country was considered sheer worthless wilderness,” he said, with a sweep of his arm indicating the rocky hillsides all about them. “Gold . . . the country’s full of it. At any moment you may stub your foot against a fortune. And power ! It’s the world’s storehouse of power.”
So they tramped on, Williams enthusiastic, informative, and apparently undisturbed by the heavy going; Kent saying little. The heat of a midsummer sun was beginning to pour down upon them, and the valley was breathless.
At length they caught sight of a scar on the hill and the glimmer of a steel rail.
“The railway,” Williams exclaimed. “I was right.”
"Yes, but on the other side of the river.” Kent pointed out.
“Never mind; it will cross ... or we will.”
True enough, sooner than they had dared to hope, the railway bridged the stream. They clambered up and found their feet on its level, easy roadbed.
Toward noon they found evidence of settlement, and before nightfall reached a little town in the centre of an agricultural community being wrested from the wilderness. The buzz of motor cars and the glare of electric light came down upon them again as from another world. Along a single earthen street was strewn a double row of wooden buildings housing stores, shops, implements, automobiles. On the plank sidewalk they jostled with townsmen, commercial travellers, farmers, smartly dressed women, river drivers, prospectors, and noted with some relief that their appearance occasioned not the slightest interest or curiosity.
Huge black letters painted on the bare wall of one of the larger buildings announced the King’s Hotel. “What’s good enough for the king should do for us,” Williams observed, and they turned in.
“Mr. Freeman, Mr. Hunt,” the clerk read their names from the register. “Two rooms with bath, gentlemen?”
They were shown upstairs to adjoining rooms; square commodious boxes, comfortable but far from luxurious.
“That ‘rooms with bath’ stuff rathe1, worries me,” Williams said, when they were alone.
“What of it? Do people not take baths in this country?”
“Not at so much per, unless they’re from the city. That’s the point. In spite of our packs and our gruelling day on the road, that clerk put us down for city people the moment he clapped eyes on us.”
Kent returned his gaze with something near dismay.
“That’s a fact. Still, if I go through my clothes and boots for a week as I’ve done today my disguise will be complete.”
They washed and went down to get something to eat. At the desk they were stopped by the clerk.
“I’ve a telegram here for you, Mr. Freeman. Have been holding it for a week or more.” He handed over a yellow envelope.
Williams, glancing over Kent’s shoulder, saw the address, Miles Freeman.
“That must be for your brother,” he remarked. Then, to the clerk, “Haven’t seen anything of the other Freeman recently, have you?”
“Didn’t know there were two,” the clerk answered. “But, come to think of it, we had a Freeman registered here a month or two ago. About your build, he was,” indicating Kent.
“You’re sure he didn’t leave a forwarding address?” Williams was hot on the trail of information.
“No. Don’t think he knew himselfProspector.” So dismissing the subject, the clerk turned to other business.
“We slipped up on one thing,” Williams said, when they had sat down to supper. “We should have found what is in that telegram.”
"pOR a week they worked northward 4and westward, tramping the railway track or helping themselves to occasional lifts on freight trains. At the second important town at which they stopped another telegram to Miles Freeman was handed them, and on this occasion Kent accepted it without argument or explanation. It was what he expected—a wire from Gordon Brace urging Freeman to meet him at some point to be agreed upon to discuss the sale of his radio patent. It confirmed Galut’s report that Brace had wired to many points in the north country in the hope of establishing contact with Freeman, but gave no additional information.
On the evening of their seventh day on the road they stopped at a sidetrack and embryo town of two buildings—the railway station and a house for the foreman of the “section” gang engaged in maintenance of the right-of-way. They had been travelling at low expense, sleeping and eating in the open, but their supplies were running low and they enquired of the station agent whether there was a chance of getting lodgings and meals for the night.
“I board at Ole’s,” the agent explained, indicating the red-painted section-house with his thumb, “but he’s full to the roof. You can pay your way?” he asked, pointedly.
They assured him they still enjoyed a state of solvency.
“I asked because I didn’t want to see Ole’s wife stuck with a pair of deadbeats,” he continued, frankly. “Perhaps you can get meals from her, and you can sleep here on the seats, if you like.”
The agent saw to his semaphores and locked the office. “All right,” he eaid “We’ll see what Olga can do for us.”
The section men were filing out for their after-supper smoke, and Olga and her two daughters, sixteen and twelve,
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were clearing the wreckage from a long table, oilcloth-covered, in the middle of the principal room.
“Paying boarders for you tonight, Mrs. Hansen,” the agent announced. “They sleep in the station.”
The perspiring woman regarded them doubtfully and without speech. But she set places for them and fed them simply but well.
After supper they sat and smoked until they heard Ole at his radio. The Swede manipulated the dials, and presently a jazz band was flooding the room.
“Clear out the dishes, Olga; maybe we have a dance,” Hansen suggested to his wife.
“Maybe we wash the dishes first, an’ maybe Ay dance enough for a hot day all retty,” the woman retorted. But when the work was finished and the big table had been carried out of the house, the girls were ready enough to dance, and as they floated about the room in their partners’ arms they spoke a universal language which needs no interpretation.
After a while Ole, like a true radio fan, tired of the station he 'was getting and twirled the dials for something else. A few bars of grand opera came surging in, but Ole choked them into instant silence. Then someone giving a speech met a similar fate. A persuasive argument
featuring the value of a certain kind of fertilizer lasted for a paragraph, and the ruthless Ole rolled on.
Suddenly, as clearly as though speaking in that very room, came a voice which shot Kent and Williams through and through with a thrill of something almost supernatural. It was the well-known
announcer of the Hensley Radio Corporation.
“In response to a tremendous volume of requests Miss Gladys Hensley—”
But Ole had turned on.
"Oh, do pick that up again, won’t you, please, Mr. Hansen?” Kent begged of him. “We I that is, we have
heard that singer before.”
“You like her? Sure. Ay catch her if she ain’t gone.”
The obliging Ole retraced his course, and in a moment the radio cut in again.
. “Professor Herzton at the piano.”
Kent pictured Herzton’s elegant room; the wiry, alert, fox-faced man at the piano; Gladys in front of the microphone. Every note of the piano introduction sounded like a bell, and every bell wrung his heart. Then, out of a gap of infinite silence, came a clear soprano voice:
“Once on a time, in a kingdom by the sea,
Lived a young prince, sad and lonely ”
“Sad and lonely.” It seemed to Kent the words might have been intended for him. He saw Gladys Hensley standing in Herzton’s room, her figure erect, tense with the emotion she was throwing into her song, her head back, her throat full and quivering, her cheeks softly pink under the gentle light which Herzton would temper to such a scene. For a moment he lost the thread of the song and was caught back only when the singer’s full-throated low E opened that marvellous refrain:
“You are my song of love, melody immortal . . . ”
The low, slow chords released an infinite yearning within him which gathered intensity until the voice died away in the final vibrations of Schubert’s masterpiece. Seated beside the elder Hansen girl, Kent was unaware that her hand was clasped in his, the two linked together in a mystic receiving set, vibrating with the ether about them. Could it be, as the Reverend Rogers had suggested, that
there is a thing of spirit, unexplained by science, a universal medium through which all hearts in tune respond to each other? The body of Gladys Hensley was far away, but her voice still rang in his ears. If a mechanical device can do that, what limit could be placed upon the soul itself?
Kent had an overwhelming sense of her presence about him, enveloping him. Notwithstanding her telegram of rejection, he felt that she had been reaching out to him, and that more than words had come surging through space. Unconsciously he withdrew his hand from his companion’s and extended his arms. Ole’s look of curiosity brought him back to material things, and, blushing furiously, he hurried out of the room.
Half an hour later he found the station agent, and together they walked twice the length of the platform without speaking. Bright star-points shone down from a cool, cloudless sky, and the bluegreen lights of the switch signals glowed steadily from the ends of the sidetrack.
“Great singer, that,” the agent ventured at length, wondering what lay behind Kent’s strange behavior. “You’ve heard her before?”
“Yes. Fact is, I know her . . . very well.”
“Oh !” Light, not from the stars, was dawning upon the servant of the Canadian National.
Suddenly Kent turned upon him. Even in the darkness the agent was conscious of his tense, strained features.
“Look here, you’re a good fellow. Will you do me a service?”
“If I can.”
“Send her a wire, tonight, now. Let me into the station. I’ll write it there. Will you send it?”
“Of course,” the agent agreed, wondering that there should be so much ado over a very ordinary request.
Inside, on the ledge of the ticket window, by the yellow light of an oil lamp, Kent scrawled his message. “Your Song of Love came in fine. Congratulations,” was all he could trust the wire to say. He signed it, Morley.
The agent raised an operator at the nearest divisional point and in a few minutes had rattled the message off to its destination.
“Thanks, awfully,” said Kent, paying the small fee involved. “You don’t know what that means to me.”
“Perhaps not, but I can do my own guessing. Well, you can bunk on the seats in the waiting room. You have your blankets. Make yourself comfortable. This is not a night office, and nothing will disturb you until morning except, perhaps, a freight or two rolling
Kent thanked him and sat down on the platform to wait for Williams. His mind was too full for coherent thinking. For a week Gladys had been a thing out of an unreal past which never was. Tonight, under these silent stars, she had touched him, held him, surrounded him.
It was late when Williams came. “Hello, old man,” he greeted, sitting down alongside. “Got great news tonight. Word—definite word—of Freeman.”
Kent came back to earth. “Yes? How?”
“Mrs. Ole, and Ole himself. They were wondering why you made the sudden getaway, and I told them about a sister you had who used to sing that song before she died in a sanitarium. Had to cover up some way, you know. Then it came out that your name is Freeman, and Mrs. Ole remembered she had fed a man of that name about a month ago. She never could forget him, because he gave her two dollars for staying overnight. So we got talking about the other
Freeman, and Ole remembered having quite a chat with him. He had struck the railway here after an abortive plunge toward Hudson Bay, in a quandary whether to work east toward the Rouyn district, or west to Red Lake. He settled it by tossing a quarter, and leaving Ole to call the winner. ‘Heads for west,’ said Ole, ‘and by Yove it was, and he yump up and start for Red Lake.’ Well, that’s that. No more tie travel for the moment. We’ve still enough money to pay our fare, and we’ll take the next train.”
In the morning they learned that they would not be able to take a train from that point, as no stops were made there except by special order. “Twelve miles west there’s a regular stop,” the agent explained. “You can hoof it up there through the day and catch the Limited when she goes west this evening.”
They thanked him, and were on the point of leaving when he was called to his key. Curiosity caused them to wait while he took his message.
He came to Kent with the yellow slip in his hand. “Your name is Morley Kent?” he asked.
“Thought they were saying at the house your name was Freeman. But I guess it’s for you, all right. It listens like good news.” There was broad humor in his eye as he handed over the message.
Kent took the few typewritten lines at a gulp. “So glad you picked up my song I took a chance and sang for you why don’t you keep me posted on your movments sometimes very lonely. Gladys.”
He hardly could keep his delight within bounds. “That means Herzton hasn’t won out yet, anyway!” he remarked, as he handed the message to Williams.
Williams read it, and his face darkened. “You didn’t tell me you had wired her,” he said, and there was a note of accusation in his voice under which Kent visibly bridled.
“Did I have to?” he demanded.
“Oh, no. You’re your own boss. But suppose Herzton had got your wire?”
Kent’s resentment softened to concern. “By George, you’re right! I never thought of that. But he didn’t get it, and there’s no harm done, and a lot of good. Still, I guess I’d better not answer at once. Too risky.”
“I think so,” Williams agreed, soberly.
They shouldered their bundles and started again their long trudge westward, while the agent settled to work at his desk in the little glass-walled alcove which commanded a view up and down the track. From time to time he glanced after the diminishing forms until they faded out of sight in the distance. The touch of romance of which he had been a witness had revived a little flame in his heart. He must write a letter . . .
When the Limited came roaring up that evening he noticed with surprise that the engineer had cut off the steam as he passed the eastern end of the switch. Sure enough, he was stopping. The brakes ground hard on the wheels as they went sputtering by. A uniform flashed in a vestibule, swung out over the steps, and dropped off. Instantly the power was again applied, and the Limited rolled onward on its course across the continent.
“Well, Anderson, what’s new?” the policeman asked, as the two watched the speck vanishing in the distance.
“You are, Morton. Haven’t been honored with a call from you for months. What’s in the wind? Bootleggers again?”
The policeman extended a cigarette case, and both men helped themselves.
“No,” he answered. “A little variety this time. By the way, you had a message this morning for a man named Morley Kent?”
“Well?” Notwithstanding his acquaintance with Morton, the agent was instantly on his guard.
“Telegrams are confidential, and their contents may be disclosed only by order of the Court.”
"You needn’t rush for cover,” Morton chaffed him. “I’m not going to ask you what was in it. I happen to know that already. What I am interested in is— did you deliver it?”
“You know the contents? How?”
“It’s quite a story, and I may regale you with it presently, if you’re disposed to be amiable. You’ve helped me once or twice before, and I suggest that we sit in together on as neat a little problem as has been under my attention for some time. Kent was here. He sent a message to Miss Gladys Hensley last night, and received a reply this morning. You delivered it.”
“Why trouble to call on me, since you know all about it already?”
Morton refused to be annoyed. “Let us sit down inside, while I a tale unfold,” he suggested.
When they were comfortable in Anderson’s cool office Morton continued: “Two men named Morley Kent and Frank Williams have been evading us for a week. Kent is wanted for murder—” “Then let me tell you at once you are on the wrong track. I know men a little, and if that fellow is a murderer I’m an assassin and you’re a Bolshevik.”
“Glad to have you confirm the fact that he got the message, anyway. Now in our job we don’t go by appearances: we go by evidence. There was a rather unique killing down in one of our manufacturing cities. Kent’s fingerprints were found on the body. With the assistance of a Miss Hensley, rich and pretty, of course, he escaped in a seaplane piloted by Williams. There’s nothing against Williams except aiding a fugitive to escape from justice. Kent is the real quarry.
“Well, they cached their machine somewhere and took to the woods. Of course, there was the hypothesis that they had crashed and saved us all a lot of trouble, but we couldn’t bank on that, so one of our plainclothesmen went down to get at the facts. He found, as anyone might have concluded, that there was a case on between Kent and the Hensley girl. Her father is in the radio business, and she sings for the ‘mike’ from time to time. It was one of his men, a Professor Herzton, who identified the fingerprints. Herzton is playing up to the girl, too; so the plot thickens.
“Here’s where a little psychology enters in. Kent has been in the wilderness for a week, cut off from all communication with the beautiful Gladys. He’ll be about ripe to do something foolish. So Herzton puts the girl on last night’s programme. Sure enough, Kent picks her up and falls for the trap. Through an accomplice in the Hensley home we get copies of the messages, both going and coming. So now all that remains is for me to lead him to the sacrifice.”
Anderson threw the butt of his cigarette on the floor.
“It looks smooth enough, but I’ll bet a hundred to one you’re wrong. Those boys were here last night, and I put them down for being as white as they make ’em. I’ve helped you once or twice, Morton, and I’d do it again, but I’m not with you this time, because I believe you’re all wrong.”
“Don’t worry over that. I’m neither judge nor jury. They’ll get a fair trial.” “But first you’ve got to catch them?” “That’s it.”
“Well, let’s see you do it. Sorry, Morton, but I must lock up for the night.” To be Continued