In And Out
by Edgar Franklin
IN AND OUT
BY EDGAR FRANKLIN
Frontispiece by PAUL STAHR
New York W. J. Watt & Company PUBLISHERS
Copyright, 1917, by W. J. WATT & COMPANY
PRESS OF BRAUNWORTH & CO. BOOK MANUFACTURERS BROOKLYN, N. Y.
CHAPTER I. The
CHAPTER IV. The
CHAPTER V. The
Wee Sma' Hours
CHAPTER VII. The
CHAPTER X. The
CHAPTER XI. The
CHAPTER XII. The
CHAPTER XIII. In
Thick and Fast
CHAPTER XVI. The
[Illustration: The girl weighed, perhaps, one hundred and twenty
pounds, and handling that amount of weight was a mere joke to Wilkins]
IN AND OUT
CHAPTER I. The Great Unrecognized
Up in the ring, the long-nosed person who had been announced as Kid
Horrigan was having things much his own way with the smaller person
billed as the Bronx Tornado.
It was the wont of Kid Horrigan to step forward lightly, to rap the
Tornado smartly on the bridge of the nose, and thereafter to step back
as lightly and wait until the few wild blows had fanned the air and the
Tornado had returned to his meaningless and somewhat bewildered crouch.
Thereupon, in almost preoccupied fashion, the Kid stepped forward
once moreand when he had done it again and again the performance
began to grow monotonous and, down in Box B at the ringside, Johnson
Boller yawned aloud.
The yawn finished, he leaned over wearily and addressed Anthony Fry.
If that little wheeze had the pep of a dead mosquito, said Johnson
Boller disgustedly, he'd take that big stiff when his hands are up
like that and slip him an uppercut that would freeze him solid!
Anthony Fry's intellectual features relaxed in a faint smile.
He's had several chances, hasn't he? he mused.
Several? He's had fifty! He gets three a minute andwell, look at
Yes, he missed another opportunity then, didn't he? said Anthony.
Johnson Boller's cigar rolled to the other side of his mouth and he
hunched down farther in his chair.
And nine more rounds of it to go! he sighed.
Anthony Fry merely smiled more pensively and nodded, removing his
nose-glasses and tapping his teeth reflectivelyand, among other
things, causing the red-faced, partially alcoholized trio behind them
in Box B to wonder what he was doing at a prize fight anyway.
As externals go, there was some ground for the wonder. Anthony Fry
at forty-five was very tall, very lean in his aristocratic way, and
very, very dignified, from the crown of his high-held head to the tips
of his toes. In dress he was utterly beyond criticism; in feature he
was thin, austere, and impressive. At first glance one might have
fancied him a world-famous surgeon or the inscrutable head of the Steel
Trust, but the fact of the matter was that Anthony, these fifteen years
gone, had inherited Fry's Imperial Liniment, with all that that
It implied a good deal in the way of income, yet even among his
friends Anthony did not care to have the liniment phase of his quietly
elegant existence dwelt upon too insistently. Not that he regarded the
businessrun by a perfect manager and rarely visitedas a secret
shame exactly, but unquestionably Anthony would have preferred that his
late father and his two dead uncles, when starting their original
pursuit of wealth, had corraled the world's diamond supply or purchased
Manhattan Island at a bargain.
Just now, perhaps, Anthony's more striking features were emphasized
by the nearness of Johnson Boller, one of his few really intimate
Johnson Boller's age was just about the same, but there the
similarity between them stopped short.
Johnson Boller was plump, one might almost say coarse. Where Anthony
walked with slow dignity, Johnson swaggered. Where Anthony spoke in a
measured undertone and smiled frigidly, Johnson thumped out the words
and laughed with a bark. About most things except food he was inclined
to be gloomy and pessimistic, and this evening the gloom within was
even thicker than usual, because Johnson Boller's wife had left him.
She was a new wife and his firsta beautiful and spirited wife, all
of fifteen years younger than Johnson Boller. She was in love with him
and he with her, tremendouslyand now she was gone. After only six
months of unalloyed happiness in the five-thousand-dollar apartment on
Riverside Drive, Mrs. Johnson Boller had left for her annual visit of
one month to the sister whose accursed husband owned great chunks of
Montreal, Quebec, and insisted on living on one of them.
One vast hour Johnson Boller had roamed the vacuum that had been
their ideal home; then he had packed his grip and gone to stay with
Anthony Fry, in that utter ultimate of everything impeccable and
expensive in the way of bachelor apartments, the Hotel Lasandeand
even the sight of the fight tickets, when Anthony's invaluable Wilkins
had returned with them, had failed to bring more than a flitting smile
to Johnson Boller.
Now they were watching the second preliminary bout, and could he but
have traded one thousand of these bouts for a single hour with his
beloved Beatrice, Johnson Boller would have gladly.
In the main, said Anthony Fry, that absurd little chap up there
typifies my whole conception of opportunity.
Huh? Johnson Boller said.
The chance for that fatal uppercut is thereit was there a minute
ago and it will be there a minute hence, and probably two minutes
hence. Our Tornado hasn't seen it yet; he may go to the end of the ten
rounds and never see it, and yet, unless this Horrigan chap changes his
tactics, it will be repeated again and again. Would he see it if the
bout ran twenty rounds?
How the dickens should I know? Johnson Boller muttered.
I'd be quite willing to wager, Anthony smiled thoughtfully, that
he would see it!
Johnson Boller surveyed his friend narrowly. It was obvious that
Anthony's attention had strayed from the alleged battleand small
wonder! It was equally obvious that Anthony's mind was wandering off
into the abstract; and not infrequently these little journeysprovided
they went not too farwere quite entertaining.
Johnson Boller, therefore, with an impulse he was to regret bitterly
in the very near future, gave a prod to discussion by smiling in his
own unhappy way and saying:
What's the idea, Anthony? You're wrong, butwhat is it?
My idea, said the proprietor of Fry's Imperial Liniment slowly,
is merely this, Johnson: that the whole proposition of the man who is
a dire failure, the man who is a tremendous success, is vastly
That failure does not of necessity imply incapacity or
ineptitudeor success any tremendous capability, in many cases, for
that matter. Taken by and large, we are all made of much the same
stuff, you know. The trouble lies in the failure of the plain, average,
reasonably stupid citizen to recognize opportunity's one solitary
knock! Anthony smiled, growing himself more interested by the second.
Now, if opportunity were but decent enough to knock twice, at least
double the number of striving humans would recognize her nearness and
grasp her. If she could bring herself to knock three times, say, our
successes would be tripled. If
And if she knocked a thousand times in succession, everybody'd be a
millionaire, Johnson Boller suggested.
Something like that, smiled Anthony. The chap who does know
opportunity, recognizes her mainly by accident, I honestly believe.
Now, if we could but take each man and place opportunity before him and
hold her there until he fully understood that she was present, the word
failure would be omitted from the dictionaries a generation hence.
Anthony Fry winked rapidly, which in itself was rather a bad sign
because it indicated that the theorizing portion of his cultured brain
was growing quite rapt. At another time, very likely, Johnson Boller
would have heeded the warning and turned Anthony's attention gently
back to the fight; but to-night Boller sought refuge from the haunting
loneliness that Beatrice had left behind.
I don't agree with you! he said flatly.
Nix! said Johnson Boller. Any guy who can come face to face with
a regular honest-to-goodness opportunity, Anthony, and not know her
inside of one second, could have her tied to his right leg for two
hundred years and never know she was there.
You really believe that?
Oh, I know it! said Johnson Boller. I have several millions of
years of human experience to prove that I'm right.
Anthony leaned closer, causing the largest of the red-faced trio
behind to growl senselessly as he was forced to shift for a view of the
Let us assume, Johnson, the individual A, said Anthony. A wished
to become a lawyer; he had his chance and missed it. We will assume him
to be peculiarly stupid; we will say that he had opportunity for the
second timeand again failed to grasp her. Can you think that,
deliberately led up to his third opportunity of becoming a lawyer, A
will turn his back for the third time?
Certainly, said Johnson Boller, without thought and solely because
Anthony's precise driveling interested him a little more than the
affair of the ring.
Pah! Mr. Fry said angrily.
Just here Mr. Horrigan slipped while making his nth jab at the
Tornado's noseslipped and fell upon the Tornado's fist and thereafter
reeled about for a few seconds. Johnson Boller emitted his first real
laugh of the evening; Anthony Fry, who had not seen the incident,
failed even to smile.
It would be interesting, he said crisply, to select a subject,
Johnson, and try the experiment.
That of learning just how many times opportunity must be presented
to the average individual to secure full recognition of her presence
and her beauties.
Wouldn't it? mused Johnson Boller absently.
I mean, to reach haphazard into the six millions that go to make up
New York, to pick just one individual and segregate him, and then show
himopportunity! To take him aside, where there is nothing else
to distract him, and thrust opportunity in his very facethe
opportunity, whatever it might be, that he has always desired. It seems
to me, Johnson, that watching that experiment might be distinctly worth
Aha! yawned Johnson Boller.
So, therefore, Anthony said placidly, we will find our subject
and make the experiment.
This time, and with a considerable jar, Johnson Boller awoke to the
fact that danger was at his elbow!
He sat bolt upright and stared at Anthony Fry, and in the queerest
way his flesh crawled for a moment and his hands turned cold, for he
knew that expression of Anthony's all too well. Intent, wholly
absorbed, that expression indicated that, however ridiculous the
proposition might be, its fangs had fastened in Anthony's very soul!
This was the expression which recalledoh, so clearlythe dread
time when Anthony Fry had become obsessed with the idea that crime is a
matter of diet and external impression, when he had secured the two
yeggmen and established them where he could watch and feed them; when,
eventually, he had been forced to pay for their crowning crime or go to
jail as an accomplice!
This was the expression that brought back the period in which
Anthony had cherished the theory that music's true germ lay in the
negro race, properly guided and separated from all outside influences
andwell, this was the expression, fast enough, and Boller's throat
tightened. He had not even found words of protest when Anthony pursued:
And upon my soul! See how the thing has been prearranged for us!
Look here, Johnson, the owner of Fry's Liniment hurried on, quite
excitedly. Have you noticed how packed the house is to-night?
What? Yes, and
Every seat in the place is soldexcept this one seat in our box!
What of it?
It's fate! chuckled Mr. Fry. It is fate and nothing else,
Johnson. Out of all the millions in New York, one manabsolutely
unknown to, unsuspected by, either you or meis coming to take this
seat, doubtless for the star bout.
To that man, said Anthony, I shall offer opportunity!
What d'ye mean? Money? Johnson Boller asked incredulously.
It will involve money, doubtless; I can afford a little.
Well, you go and poke a handful of bills into a man's face and all
you're going to prove is that
I have no idea of doing anything of the sort, Anthony said
impatiently. What I purpose doing is simply this: I shall
Johnson Boller had recovered from the first shock. He drew a long,
deep breath, and, leaning over to his old friend, placed a firm, strong
hand on his knee and looked soothingly into his kindled eye.
Listen, Anthony! said he. Don't!
Eh? You've no notion of what I mean to do, Anthony said briefly.
No, but I can guess enough to dope it out pretty well, anddon't
do it! Johnson Boller said earnestly. This theory stuff is all right,
Anthony; I like to sit and chatter about it as much as you do. On the
level, I do! I like to talk with you about these things, and wonder
what would happen if this was thus and the other thing was otherwise.
But when you come to pulling it on a perfect stranger at a prize fight,
Anthony, try to remember that everybody may not understand you as well
as I do.
My dear chap! Anthony laughed.
Don't laugh; I know what I'm talking about, Mr. Boller went on,
feverishly almost. You wait till we get home, Anthony, and we'll talk
over all this about opportunity and get it settled. For the matter of
that, I can see now that you're dead right! Johnson Boller said, and
there was something almost pathetic in his voice. You're dead right,
Anthony! All you have to do is to stick opportunity before a man long
enough and he's bound to chuck a hammerlock into her and slam her down
to the mat for keeps! So that's settled, and we don't have to do any
experimenting with human subjects. Or if you do have to have a live one
to work on, wait till we get home and we'll take Wilkins, Anthony!
That'd be better, anyway.
He paused, eying his old friend with deep anxiety. Anthony Fry,
having thrown back his head, laughed heartily.
Johnson, said he, the whole trouble with that poor old head of
yours is that it is absolutely without the power of visualization! It
knows the wool business; it makes thousands and thousands of dollars
out of the wool business; but to save its very life it cannot reach out
into the abstract!
It doesn't want to reach into the abstract!
Well, it should, because it will grow more and more stodgy if it
doesn't, Mr. Fry said complacently. Good gracious, Johnson! Coming to
life! Just consider what may be coming to this seat!
I don't dare! Johnson Boller said honestly.
An old man, perhapsone who fancies his opportunities all past and
done for. What more vitally interesting than thrusting opportunity upon
such a man, Johnson?
So far as I'm concerned, anything under the sun and
Or perhaps a middle-aged failure, Anthony rambled on. A man just
past the age when hope is richesta man who has seen his chances come
and go. I don't know, Johnson, but I rather believe that I'm hoping for
a middle-aged man.
Yes, one that's weak enough to gag before he can yell for the
police, Johnson Boller grunted. Now, Anthony, before you
Or best of all, perhaps, an average young man, smiled the
experimenter. That would really be the most interesting sort of
subject, Johnsonjust a plain chap, not fully matured, not soured by
disappointment nor rendered too sophisticated by contact with the
world. On the whole, I really hope that a young man is coming!
And now, for a time, Johnson Boller said nothing at all. There was
always the chance that Anthony might work it out of his system in
talkthere was the other chance, growing rosier and rosier by the
minute, that the odd chair had not been sold at all.
It was rather queer, when one considered that seats for this
particular star bout had been at a premium for a week, but it was
nevertheless the fact that the preliminary arguments were over and the
announcer spinning his megaphoned tale for the big battle, and the seat
still unoccupied. To Johnson Boller it even hinted at the existence of
a special Providence designed to watch the doings of such as Anthony
The minutes were wearing along, too. The cheering was done with and
the megaphone had left the ring. Seconds and trainers were climbing
down through the ropes, and the principals were listening boredly to
the final words of instruction. And now the gong had struck and they
were at itand still the odd chair in Box B remained unoccupied.
Opportunity! mused Anthony Fry. The Great Unrecognized!
The Great Unrecognized, Anthony repeated complacently. Not a bad
term for her, eh?
Johnson Boller made a last survey of the neighborhood, permitted
himself a sigh of relief, and grinned broadly at his old friend.
Great term, Anthony! he agreed genially. He isn't coming!
He'll be here yet, Anthony smiled.
Not now, Boller chuckled. No man gives up ten or fifteen dollars
for one of these seats and then stays away for any reason save death.
Your victim was hit by a motor-truck on the way hereand at that he
may be getting off easier than if you'd caught him and tried some
psychological experiments on him.
And here Mr. Boller stretched and removed his cigar, so that his
grin might spread from ear to ear.
It only goes to show you, Anthony, that there's some power watching
over people like you and governing their affairs, that is past our
understanding. Now, if that poor unknown devil had ever turned up
He stopped short.
In Anthony Fry's eye the blue-white fire of enthusiasm glinted out
suddenly. Half rising, Mr. Fry gazed down the vast place, and then,
with a smile, sat back again and eyed his friend.
Something's wrong with your power, Johnson, said he. Here he
CHAPTER II. Theory's Victim
Johnson Boller looked. And, looking, the pleased grin which had so
lately suffused his features faded out swiftlybecause the unknown
really seemed to be with them.
Far down the mob, an attendant of the place was indicating their
general direction to a shortish man in a long storm-coat; and now he of
the coat had nodded and was pushing his way down the narrow aisle
toward them, staring at the sea of faces as he moved along slowly and
seeming a little uncertain in his movements.
Anthony! Johnson Boller said suddenly.
Don't speak to this guy! I don't like his looks!
And this gang behind us is doing everything but watch the fight,
Mr. Boller whispered on. If you try anything funny on this fellow
that's coming, he's likely to put up a yell of some kindand once a
fight starts in this box these three behind are coming in.
Johnson, don't be absurd, Anthony smiled. Get over in the odd
seat; I want the chap next to me so that I can have a good look at
Will you remember that I said you were going to start trouble?
Johnson inquired hotly.
I'll remember anything you like, only get over into that odd seat,
Mr. Fry muttered, as the stranger came closer. Ah, he's hardly more
than a boy.
Yes, he's a young thug! Johnson Boller informed him in parting.
He's a young gang-leader, Anthonylook at the walk! Look at the way
he has that cap pulled down over one eye! Look at
Anthony Fry, obviously, would have heard him as well had he been
seated on the steps of Colorado's State capitol. Intellectual
countenance alight, the mildly eccentric Anthonyreally the sanest and
most delightful of men except when these abstract notions came to
himwas wholly absorbed in the newcomer.
Rather than stare directly he turned toward the ring as the young
man in the long coat crowded into the box and settled down with a
little puff, but one who knew him as well as Johnson Boller could feel
Anthony's eyes looking past his lean right cheek and taking in every
detail of theory's prospective victim.
Not that he was a particularly savage-looking creature on closer
inspection, however. The cheap cloth cap and the shabby long
coatheavy enough for a typhoon when there was the merest suggestion
of drizzle outdoorsgave one that impression at first, but second
examination showed him to be really rather mild.
He seemed to be about twenty. His clothing, from the overcoat to the
trousers and the well-worn shoes, indicated that he came from no very
elevated plane of society. His features, which seemed decidedly boyish
among some of the faces present, were decidedly good. His hair needed
cutting and had needed it, for some time, and he was tremendously
interested in the star bout. Elbows on the rail, cap pulled down to
shade his eyes, the youngster's whole excited soul seemed centered in
So at a rather easy guess Mr. Boller concluded that he was a
mechanic or a janitor's assistant or an elevator boy or something like
that. The buyer of his seat, finding himself unable to come at the last
moment, had given the kid his ticket and he was having the time of his
Johnson Boller hunched down again with a sad little grunt. He had
meant to enjoy this star bout; only a week ago, in fact, before the
Montreal horror loomed up, he had been considering just how an evening
might be snatched from the happy home life without disturbing
Beatricewho, ignorant of modern pugilism, disapproved prize-fighting
on the ground of brutality. And now it was ruined, because Johnson
Boller's next half hour would have to go to the devising of means by
which Anthony could be steered from his idiotic experiment, whatever it
might be in concrete form.
Anthony meant to offer this youngster opportunityhow or in what
form Anthony himself doubtless did not know as yet. But he did intend
to speak to him and, unless Johnson Boller's faculty for guessing was
much in error, he meant to lead the youngster hence, perhaps to feed
him in a restaurant while he talked him full of abstract theory,
perhaps even to take him home to the Lasande.
But whatever he intended, it wouldn't do. Johnson Boller really
needed Anthony this night. He needed Anthony to listen while he talked
about the absent Beatrice, and recalled all her beauty, all her fire,
all her adorable qualities; he needed Anthony at the other side of the
chessboard, over which game Johnson Boller could grow so profoundly
sleepy that even Beatrice en route to Siam would hardly have
disturbed him. And he needed no third person!
Toward the end of the fifth round, however, Johnson Boller grew
painfully conscious that he had as yet concocted no very promising
scheme. Indeed, the lone inspiration so far included whispering to the
kid that the gentleman on his other side was mildly insane and that
flight were best, should the gentleman address him; but Anthony
persisted in leaning so close to the youngster that whispering was
Also, it occurred to Johnson Boller that he himself might be taken
violently illthat he might clutch his heart and beg Anthony to lead
him to the outer air. There was little in that, though; the chances
were more than even that Anthony, if his enthusiasm as to the victim
still persisted, would request the youngster's assistance in getting
And the enthusiasm seemed enduring enough. They were in the tenth
and last round now and Anthony, with his strange smile, was turning to
the young man andah, yes, he was speaking:
The boy started with undue violence and stared at him, drew back a
little and even looked Anthony up and down as he said:
Speaking to me?
I am speaking to you, young man, Anthony smiled benignly. May I
speak to you a little more?
This, very evidently, was a sensitive boy, unaccustomed to chatting
with really elegant, palpably prosperous strangers. The startled eyes
ran over Anthony again and a frown came into them.
What's the idea? he asked briefly.
There is a very large idea, which I should like to make clear to
you, Mr. Fry went on smoothly. I should like to have a talk with you,
young mannot here, of course, but when the fight is overand it will
be to your considerable advantage
I don't want to buy anything, the canny young man informed him.
And I don't want to sell you anything, Anthony laughed, but I do
wish to present to you a proposition which will be of much interest.
This time, possibly not without warrant, the boy shrank unmistakably
from him, hitching his collar a little higher and his cap a little
It wouldn't interest me, he said with some finality. I'mjust a
poor lad, you know, and I haven't a cent to invest in anything.
But you have an hour to invest, perhaps? Anthony smiled.
Oh, yes, you have, the owner of Fry's Imperial Liniment persisted.
It is for no purpose of my own, save perhaps to justify a small
contention, but I wish you to come home with me for a little while.
WHAT? said the boy.
As Johnson Boller observed, sighing heavily and shaking his head as
he observed it, the young man was downright scared now. An older
citizen would have spoken his candid thoughts to Anthony Fry,
doubtless, and chilled him back to reason; but this one drew away from
Anthony until he bumped into Johnson Boller, turned hastily and asked
the latter's pardon and then gazed at Anthony with eyes which, if not
filled with terror, certainly held a quantity of somewhat amused
He shook his head determinedly and seemed to be seeking words, and
as he sought them a new element entered the situation. The red-faced
person just behind Anthony Fry, having gazed suddenly from the
youngster to the maker of theories, lurched forward suddenly and spoke:
Let that kid alone!
Eh? Anthony said amazedly.
Johnson Boller leaned forward quickly.
Stop right there, Anthony! he hissed. Don't answer him!
Why on earth shouldn't I answer him? Anthony snapped.
You keep out of it, young feller! the red-faced one told Johnson
Boller, and one saw that his honest rage was rising fast. He's gotter
let that kid alone!
Well, confound your impudence, sir! Anthony began. I
None o' that stuff! the total stranger said hotly. You cut out
picking on the kid or I'll step on your face.
And here his redder-faced companion leaned forward and demanded
Woddy do ter kid, Joe? Huh? Wozzer matterhuh? Wozzer trouble 'th
Johnson Boller was on his feet and in the aisle, perturbed and still
able to see how the unexpected had been planned for his especial
This is where we get off, Anthony, he said briefly, I could smell
it coming. Come along.
Is there going to be a fight here? the boy in the chair between
asked, with a quantity of eager excitement.
If I know the signs, ten seconds hence this spot is going to look
like a detail of the Battle of the Marne, said Mr. Boller. And you
want to get out of it quick or you'll be hurt, kid. You scoot right
down that way, the way you came, and get clear of the crowd before it
He pointed. He waited. But the boy did not start.
Who, in the calmer afterward, shall explain just how these gunpowder
situations develop, grow instantaneously incandescent, and explode?
The atmosphere was one of physical battle; the red-faced gentlemen
were filled with alcoholic spirits; yet who shall say just why the
red-faced man, his friend stumbling against him, gained the impression
that Anthony Fry had struck him a coward's blow from behind? Or why,
with a roar of incoherent fury, he aimed a dreadful punch at Anthony
himself, standing there quite collected if somewhat paler?
That is what happened, although by no means all that happened. The
unfortunate spot came three seconds later when Anthony, side-stepping
the alcoholized jab, threw up his hands to fend off the jabber's whole
swaying personthrew them, all unwittingly, so that his right fist
settled squarely on a red nose, drawing therefrom a magic spurt of
After that, for a little, nothing was very clear. Three sets of
fists began to hammer in Anthony's general direction; three throats
shoutedand three hundred took up the shout.
Men came tumbling toward Box B and into it. A large person in bright
blue shirt-sleeves, with a derby on the back of his head, received the
third blow intended for Anthony and returned it with interest, just as
that startled person was jammed against the rail.
From three different points, high-held night-sticks were pushing
through the surging crowd; and Johnson Boller, looking quickly at the
storm center, counted no less than eleven separate couples pounding one
another, and smiled as he jerked Anthony bodily over the rail and
Come on, you poor lunatic! Come on!
Johnson, upon my soul Anthony began.
Never mind your soul! Get your body out of here before the cops
find it and club it to death for starting this rumpus! Mr. Boller
cried agitatedly. Look at that sergeant, Anthony! He's got his eye on
you and he's fighting his way over here! Now, you scoot down there,
kid! Move! Quick, before
No! Come with us, boy! Anthony said, somewhat disconcertingly.
What for? the boy inquired. I want to watch this.
You stay and watch it by all means! Johnson Boller smiled quickly.
You're perfectly safe, youngster; I was only fooling. Now you come
this way, Anthony, and
Anthony, unperturbed, laid a kindly hand on the youngster's
You'd better come with us, my son, said he. They'll run you in
for a witness and you may be locked up for a week unless you have
friends to get you out.
This time he had startled the young man. Wide eyes turned and stared
at him and there was a distinct note of fright in the voice that said:
What do you mean? Arrest me?
Of course, if you stay here, Anthony said. Come with me and I'll
take care of you.
And then Johnson Boller had caught his arm and was dragging him
away; and Anthony, catching the willing arm of the boy, was dragging
him after. Around the side of the ring they sped, where an interested
group of fighters and trainers watched the mêlée; and, veering, on
through a small side door and into the night.
Here's where the taxis wait, Mr. Boller said quickly. Now, you
beat it straight down the street, kid, and
We'll take this one, Anthony interrupted, as he jerked open the
door and thrust his bewildered charge inward. Tell the man to take us
Johnson Boller complied with a grunt, slamming the door viciously as
he plumped into his own seat. The kid, prospective victim of Anthony's
latest notion, was still with themand he seemed contented enough to
be there for the present. The possibility of arrest had jarred the
youngster more than a little, and he hunched down on the little forward
seat and breathed quite heavily. And now Anthony's deep, kindly voice
was addressing him with
You'll come home with me for a little while, youngster?
Mr. Boller drew a long, resigned breath and prepared to back the boy
in every objection his doubtless normal mind should offerbut they
chanced to pause by an arc lamp just then and he caught the boy's
It was really a queer thing to see. No fear was there at all now,
but only the overwhelming, innocent curiosity of youth, mingled with an
inscrutable something else. One might have called it a daredevil light,
breathing the young craving for adventure, but Johnson Boller, with an
unaccountable shudder, felt that it was not just that.
To save him, he could not have named the quality; he sensed it
rather than actually saw it, but it was there just the samean
ominous, mocking, speculative amusement that had no place at all in the
eye of an elevator boy when looking at the wealthy, dignified Anthony
Fry. The boy's fine teeth showed for a moment as he asked:
Pardon me, but what's it all about? Why under the sun should I go
home with you?
Because I want to talk confidentially to you for an hour.
You're not judging from these togs that I'm a criminal, are you?
the boy grinned, and it seemed to Johnson Boller that the tone was far
too cultivated for the clothes.
I mean, you don't want any one murdered, or anything of that kind?
Anthony laughed richly.
By no means, my dear boy. As to what it is all about I'll tell you
when we get there. You'll come?
I think not, the boy said frankly.
Nix! I don't know why, but I don't like the idea. I think it's a
little bit too unusual. Who are you, anyway?
My name is Fry, if that tells you anything, smiled its owner.
Fry? the boy repeated.
Eh? the youngster said, and there was a peculiarly sharp note in
He makes Fry's Liniment, Johnson Boller put in disgustedly, yet
happily withal because it was plain that the boy would have no part in
spoiling his chess game and the little chat about Beatrice. He has a
lot of theories not connected with the liniment business, kid, and he
wants to bore you to death with some of them. They wouldn't interest
you any more than they interest me, and you're perfectly right in
refusing to listen to them.
Umum, said the boy oddly.
And now I'll tell you what we'll do, Johnson Boller concluded
quite happily. You tell me where you live, and when the man drops us
I'll pay your fare home. Some class to that, eh? Going home in a
taxicab after sitting in a ten-dollar seat at a big fight! You don't
get off on a jamboree like that very often, I'll bet!
No, the boy said thoughtfully.
So here's the little old Hotel Lasande where Mr. Fry lives, Mr.
Boller finished cheerfully, and where shall I tell the man to set you
He had settled the matter, of course. Never in this world could the
little ragamuffin resist the temptation of returning to his tenement
home, or whatever it was, in a taxi. Johnson Boller, rising as the
vehicle stopped, laid a kindly hand on his shoulder.
Now, you sit over in my seat and stretch your legs while you ride,
kidand here! Have a real cigar and feel like a real sport! Don't you
know how to bite off the end?
II don't want to bite off the end yet, the boy muttered.
Sink your teeth in it. Now I'll get you a match.
He felt for one, did Johnson Boller, and then ceased feeling for
one. That sudden low laugh of the young man's was one of the oddest
sounds he had ever heard; moreover, as the Lasande doorman opened the
door of the taxi, he caught the same odd light in the boy's eyeand
now he, too, had risen and pulled the disreputable cap a little lower
as he said:
I won't smoke it now, thanks. I'm going upstairs and listen to Mr.
Fry for a while, I think.
CHAPTER III. Opportunity
The Hotel Lasande deserves a word or two. In the strict sense it is
no hotel at all, being merely a twenty-story pile of four and fiveand
even seven and eightroom bachelor suites of the very highest class.
Moving into the Lasande and assuming one of its breath-stopping leases
is a process not unlike breaking into the most exclusive sort of club.
One is investigated, which tells it all. The Lasande, catering to the
very best and most opulent of the bachelor class, has nothing else
beneath its roof.
Silent men servants, functioning perfectly despite their apparent
woodenness, flit everywhere, invisible until needed, disappearing
instantly when the task of the moment is done. There are dining-rooms
for the few who do not dine in the privacy of their own apartments, and
there is a long, comfortable lobby where, under the eagle eye of the
clerk in the corner, only tenants or guests of tenants may lounge.
Into this latter area came Anthony Fry and Johnson Boller and the
boy, and as the peculiarly intelligent eyes of the latter darted about
it seemed to Mr. Boller that their twinkle turned to a positive
It was absurd enough, it hailed doubtless from the nervous
loneliness within himself, yet Johnson Boller felt that the youngster
was a downright evil force, swaggering along there, tremendously
conscious of his own importance! He should have been sedate and
subdued, to put it mildly, yet he grinned at the impeccable night clerk
from under his cap and sent his impudent eyes roving on, to alight
finally on the big chair near the north elevator.
Who's the party with the big specs and why the prolonged stare?
the youngster asked irreverently.
Eh? Oh, that's Mr. Hitchin, a neighbor of mine, Anthony smiled.
He's an amateur detective, kid, Johnson Boller added
significantly. He knows every young crook in town. He's coming here to
give you the once over.
I should worry, murmured the self-possessed young man.
Johnson, don't be idiotic, Anthony said, as he laid a hand on the
boy's arm. I'll have to introduce you. What's your name, my lad?
Eh? asked the unusual boy, staring hard at Anthony.
Your name! What is it?
WellerPrentiss, the youth admitted.
Is that your first name or your last name?
That's just my last name, the boy smiled. First name's David.
David Prentiss, eh? Anthony murmured with some satisfaction, for
it had a substantial sound. Well, Davider, Hitchin, how are you? Mr.
Hitchin, my young friend, Mr. David Prentiss.
The boy's hand went out and gripped Hitchin's heartily enough. Mr.
Hitchin held it for a moment and peered at Davidand one saw what a
really penetrating stare he owned.
It bored, as a point of tempered ice, wordlessly accusing one of
murder, counterfeiting, bank burglary and plain second-story work.
Frequently deep students of the higher detective fiction grow this
stare, and Hobart Hitchin was one of the deepest. But now, having
pierced David in a dozen places without finding bomb or knife, the
stare turned to Anthony and grew quite normal and amiable.
Prentiss, eh? said Hitchin. Not the Vermont branch?
New York, David supplied.
Mr. Prentiss is staying with me for a little, Anthony smiled as
they moved toward the elevator again.
Staying with you, eh? Hitchin repeated, with a careful survey of
David's well-worn storm-coat; and added, with characteristic bluntness:
Working for you, Fry?
My guest, Anthony said annoyedly; and then the car came down and
the door opened and they left Mr. Hitchin, but the boy cocked an eye at
Anthony and asked flatly:
What was the idea of thatstaying with you? I'm not staying with
You may decide to stay for a little.
Not me, said David.
We shall see, Anthony chuckled. This is our floor.
Wilkinsthe priceless, faultless Wilkins who had been with Anthony
for sixteen yearsopened the door and, even though he were Wilkins,
started a trifle at the sight of David and his cap. He flushed for the
start, to be sure, as his master moved into the big living-room with
his superb dignity, but when he had taken cap and coat and examined the
suit beneath, Wilkins shook his head mentally. One shock had come that
evening in the knowledge that Johnson Boller, whom Wilkins did not
approve, was to be with thembut this young ruffian!
Make yourself at home, David, Anthony smiled. We'll shed our
coats and find our smoking jackets.
Johnson Boller with him, he moved to the corner bedroom, to face his
old friend with:
Well, what do you think of him?
He's a bad egg, Johnson Boller said readily. I don't like his eye
and the way he swaggers would get him six months in any court in town.
Say whatever it is the devilish impulse prompts you to say and then
fire him before he pinches the silver.
Bosh! Anthony said testily. The boy's awed and
self-consciousthe swagger is assumed to cover that, of course. I mean
what, in your decidedly inferior judgment, is his fitness as a subject
for experiment? Will he know opportunity when she is first set before
him or will it be necessary to present her repeatedly?
Johnson Boller laughed harshly and stared hard at his old friend.
Under certain conditions, even the empty apartment on Riverside Drive
might not be so bad.
Say! he demanded. Are you going to keep that little rat here and
argue with him till he admits that he recognizes whatever opportunity
you're going to thrust at him?
Well, if it's an opportunity to earn an honest living, he'll never
see itand if the chatter takes more than an hour I'm going home!
Johnson Boller snapped. I'd have stayed there if I'd known you were
going off into the abstract, Anthony. I wanted to talk to you and have
a little game of chess and a bottle of ale and
Anthony smiled serenely.
And the mere fact that a train of thought, only slightly unusual,
has entered your evening, has upset your whole being, hasn't it? Well,
it'll do you good to hear and watch something different. This boy will
see opportunity before I'm done with him, Johnson, and the longer it
takes the sounder my general hypothesis will have been proven.
Curiously enough, David had lost much of his grinning assurance when
they rejoined him. The impudence had left his eye and the boy seemed
downright uneasy. He started and rose at the sight of them, and his
quick, nervous smile lingered only a moment as he said:
I think I'd better be going after all, Mr. Fry. It's pretty late
Just a minute or two, and perhaps you'll change your mind, Anthony
said quietly, as he dropped into his pet chair. You'll permit a
personal question or two, David?
I suppose so.
Thenhow old are you?
Ah! Parents living?
And in rather humble circumstances, perhaps?
This time David glanced at him keenly, queerly, for an
instantopened his lips and shut them again and ended with a mere jerk
of a nod.
How about schooling, David? You've been through high school?
And have you a profession? Anthony pursued.
No, I haven't any profession? the boy muttered.
But you're working, of course? Mr. Fry asked sharply.
What? Oh, yes, said David.
At some mechanical line?
Oh, yes, David said.
In just what line, then?
And now, had Anthony but been watching, some of Johnson Boller's
suspicions must have seemed justified. There was no question about the
way David's very intelligent eyes were acting now; they darted
furtively, wildly almost, from side to side, as if the boy were seeking
escape. They darted toward Anthony and away from him and back to
David's shabby suit and worn shoes.
I'm aplumber's helper! the boy said gustily.
Wait a second, kid! Mr. Boller put in. Let me see those hands!
Well, theythey haven't had time to get roughened up yet! David
said quickly. I just went to work yesterday.
The boy's lying, Anthony! Mr. Boller said bluntly.
I don't lie, Mr.
Boller, Anthony supplied. And please don't badger the boy,
I'm not badgering him, said Johnson Boller; only that kid's hands
look more like a society queen's than an honest workingman's.
They may be hands designed for better things. David! Tell me, are
you quite satisfied to be a plumber's helper, or was it the only thing
you could find in the way of employment?
It was all I could find, David muttered, glancing at the door. And
then, with his quick smile, he rose again. I'd like to sit here and
answer questions, Mr. Fry, but I'll have to run along and
Anthony beamed at him over his glasses, fidgeting there with the
impatience of youth, standing on one foot and then on the other.
Anthony turned and beamed at the bookcase beside him, and selecting a
volume, beamed at that, too.
David, said he, will you be seated long enough to hear a little
It is a very short poem, and one of my favorites, Anthony mused,
and his stare at David grew quite hypnotic. Ah, here it isa little,
wonderfully big poem by the late Senator John Ingalls. It is
Aha! David said rather stupidly.
And now, listen, said Anthony, clearing his throat.
Master of human destinies am I!
He paused and sent the hypnotic smile drilling into David.
'Master of human destinies!' he repeated. That, in itself,
means a very great deal, does it not?
I guess so, David muttered dazedly, and, however briefly, Johnson
Boller almost liked him for the look he directed at Anthony's bowed
Fame, love, and fortune on my footsteps wait,
Cities and fields I walk; I penetrate
Deserts and seas remote, and passing by
Hovel and mart and palace, soon or late
I knock unbidden once at every gate!
Once, concluded Anthony, at every gate. Once, David!
Yes, I've heard that poem before, said David, who was examining
Johnson Boller laughed in a rich undertone. Anthony flushed, and his
voice rose a little as he continued:
If feasting, rise; if sleeping, wake before
I turn away. It is the hour of fate
And they who follow me reach every state
Mortals desire, and conquer every foe
The owner of Fry's Imperial Liniment looked over his glasses and
discovered that David, having poked open the door of the little-used
cellarette with his foot, was looking in at the bottles with mild
'Every foe save death!' Anthony rapped out. Did you hear that,
Yes, of course, David said hastily. Do you know what time it is,
No! Hear the rest! said Anthony.
... But those who doubt or hesitate,
Condemned to failure, penury, or woe,
Seek me in vain and ceaselessly implore;
I answer not and I returnno more!
Almost reverently the book closed.
Have you quite assimilated the full meaning of that little poem,
David? he asked gravely.
Quite? Anthony persisted.
Why, I guess so, David said, eyes opening again. Yes, I know I
haveonly don't look at me like that and
Then hear the rest of what I have to say, Anthony went on quickly
and impressively, for now we come to my reason for bringing you here.
David, you are poor. You are without a professionwithout a business
of your own. Your brightest hope at present is to become a plumber.
Say David began.
I should have said, your brightest chance, Anthony corrected. But
your ambition, David, is altogether different. Your ambition is
And now, before the penetrating, hypnotic eye, David seemed, not
without warrant, to have grown downright frightened. He glanced swiftly
at Anthony and at the door.
I don't know, he said breathlessly. What's the answer?
Well, what do you want to become? A doctor? A lawyer? A teacher? An
electrician? A journalist? A clergyman? A painter? An architect? A
mining engineer? A civil engineer? A
It was plain to Johnson Boller that the situation was getting beyond
David's doubtless nimble, doubtless criminal, mind. The boy held up an
unsteady hand and stayed the flow.
That's it! he said hoarsely. A civil engineer! You got it out of
me, didn't you? And now I'd better go and
His quick, scared grin showed all his teeth, and he nodded in the
most ridiculous fashionreally much in the fashion one might nod at a
hopeless lunatic when agreeing that, as a matter of course, he is the
original Pharaoh. His mental state fairly glowed from him; all that
David wanted was to leave the Hotel Lasande.
David, in short, was doing just what ninety-nine per cent. of the
human race insists on doing; even at the hint of opportunity, he was
trying to face about and escape. But more than that, David, obviously
one of the lower classes, was treating Anthony Fry with a tolerance
that was more than mere disrespect. He was causing Johnson Boller to
chuckle wearily over his cigarand in spite of his purely abstract
interest, Anthony's color grew darker and his voice decidedly sharper.
Sit still, he commanded, and listen to me. David, up to this
evening you had no real hope of attaining your ambition. In fine,
opportunity to make the goal was not yours. Now opportunity is yours!
Is it? David said throatily, albeit he did not resume his seat.
Because this is what I mean to do for you, David; I mean to take
you out of your present humble situation and educate you. I mean to
have you here to live with me.
What? David gasped.
From this very evening! Anthony said firmly, and also
astonishingly. I shall outfit you properly and supply you with what
money you need. I shall have you prepared for the best engineering
college we can find, and entered there for the most complete
engineering course. If you are helping in the support of your family, I
shall pay to them a sum equivalent to your wages each monthor perhaps
a little more, if it be essential to removing all anxiety from your
mind. You follow me?
David merely clutched the edge of his coat and gulped, staring
fascinatedly at Anthony.
I am reasonably wealthy, and I shall bear every expense that you
may incur, David. When you have graduated, and everything that can be
taught you has been taught you, I shall establish you in proper offices
and use my considerable personal influence to see that you are supplied
with work, and again until you are self-supporting I shall bear all the
expense. In short, David, Anthony concluded, I am holding
opportunity before youopportunity to do, without trouble or worry
or delay, the thing you most desire. Well?
Even Johnson Boller was mildly interested, although only mildly, and
with a deprecatory smile on his lips. He knew exactly what the boy
would do, of course, but it had no connection with Anthony's
David would grab with both hands at this kind of opportunity and
settle down to a life of ease, and the chances were that he'd get
Anthony to sign something that would cost him thousands when he had
waked up and lost interest in the opportunity proposition.
To Johnson's sleepy and suspicious eye David looked like a crafty
little devil, if one ever walked.
Yet after a silent thirty seconds opportunity, in her gaudiest and
most conspicuous form, had made no visible impression on David
Prentiss. His bewildered eyes roved from Anthony to Johnson Boller.
Once he seemed about to laugh; again he seemed about to speak; he did
And the clock struck twelve.
And had a bomb exploded between his poorly shod feet, the effect on
David Prentiss could hardly have been more striking. He started, and
his eyes, dilating, lost their bewilderment and showed plain,
overwhelming horror. His mouth opened with a shout of:
Was that midnight?
Very likely, Anthony said impatiently. But as to
Where's my cap and coat? David demanded.
Never mind your cap and coat. I
But I do mind 'em! David cried. I've got to have themquick!
Where are they? Where's the man who took them?
Anthony merely smiled with waxing curiosity.
So you are really rejecting opportunity at the first knock, eh? he
And now David stilled his rising excitement only with a huge effort.
He gripped his chair and looked Anthony in the eye.
Opportunity behanged! he cried shrilly. Give me my cap and
coat! I want to go home!
CHAPTER IV. The Reluctant One
One knew Anthony Fry for two or three decades before quite
understanding him. David's great disadvantage, of course, was that he
had met Anthony only an hour or so before. To David, doubtless, the
quiet, mysterious, speculative smile seemed sinister, for he repeated
I want mymy cap and my coat and
Well, what are you going to do if you don't get them? Anthony
What did you say? David asked quickly.
What if you don't get your coat?
Does that mean that you're going to keep me here, whether I want to
stay or not? the boy asked quickly.
Not just that, perhaps, but it does mean that I'm going to keep you
here for a little while, David, until you've come to your senses
I'll yell! David stated.
If you try to keep me here I'll yell until everybody in the house
comes in to see what's happening!
Anthony laughed quietly.
Don't be ridiculous, David, he said. I've lived here for years,
and they will know perfectly well that I'm not injuring you in any
Oh! gasped David.
So just sit down again and consider what I have offered you. Sit
still for just one minute and considerand then give me your answer.
Finger-tips drumming, benevolent gaze beaming over his glasses, the
unusual Anthony waited. David's scared eyes roved the room, wandered
over Johnson Boller, reading his paper, and finally settled so steadily
on that gentleman that he looked up and, looking, read David's mind and
shrugged his shoulders.
Your own fault, kid, said he. I wanted to give you a free ride,
but you had to come up and hear what he had to say.
Johnson! Anthony said sharply, Just let the youngster's mental
processes work the thing out in their own way.
Half a minute dragged alongyet before it was gone one saw clearly
that the mental processes had taken their grip. An extremely visible
change was coming over David Prentiss. He gulped down certain emotions
of his own, and presently managed to smile, uneasily at first and then
with a certain confidence. He cleared his throat and, with a slight
huskiness, addressed Anthony:
Erdo I understand that you want me to stay here until I fully
appreciate all you've offered me, Mr. Fry?
Well, I appreciated that all along; butbut I was sort of worried
about it getting so late, you know, David said brightly. I certainly
do appreciate it, and I thank you very much. Now can I have my coat?
Really decided to grip the opportunity, eh? Anthony asked keenly.
Johnson Boller laid aside his paper.
Now chase him, Anthony! he said. He's standing up and holding the
sugar on his nose. Slip the kid a five-dollar bill and let Wilkins
Do you really imagine that I'd rouse all the boy's hopes and then
play him a shabby trick like that? Anthony asked sharply.
Most emphatically not! Mr. Fry said. I'll play no such shabby
trick on the youngster. He shall have exactly the chance I promised,
and I shall watch the working out of the idea with the most intense
interest. David, I'm going to keep you here from this minute!
Keep me here? David echoed blankly.
David gazed fixedly at the electrolier.
Well, I'll tell you, Mr. Fry, he said. I'd like to stay to-night,
but I can'tnot to-night. You see, I have to go home to my father.
He's anan invalid.
We'll telephone the good news to him, Anthony smiled.
You can't, said David. We're too poor to have a telephone.
Very well. Then we'll wire him.
David shook his head energetically.
That wouldn't do, either, said he. Father's sick, you know. His
heart's very weak. Just the sight of a telegram might kill him.
Unfortunate! Anthony sighed and shrugged his shoulders. Very
well, David. Then you shall write him a note, and I'll have Wilkins
take it to him.
David swallowed audibly and smiled a wild little smile.
Oh, no! Not that, sir! said he. That might be even worse than a
telegram, I think.
Well, father would be likely to think that I'd beenbeen injured
and taken into some swell home, you know, and that I was writing like
that just to reassure him. No, David said firmly, that would be the
worst possible thing. I'll have to go myself and talk it over with
father andnow if I can have my cap and my coat?
It came as a familiar refrain. It caused Anthony's eye to darken
suddenly as he sat back and stared at the boy.
Confound your hat and coat! he rapped out. See here, David. You
write the note, and I myself will take it to your father and
explainand be sure that he will rejoice. There is the desk. Where do
His tone was not nearly so benevolent. Opposition, as always, was
rousing Anthony's unfortunate stubbornness; with or without reason, had
David but known it, every mention of that cap and coat was diminishing
his chances of walking out of the Lasandeand it is possible that he
sensed something of the kind, for his smile disappeared abruptly, and
the assurance that had been with him was no more.
I can't tell you where I live! he said hoarsely.
In the name of heaven, why not? Anthony snapped.
Becausebecausewell, you may not understand this, sir, but I
promised father I wouldn't tell any one where we live.
I did, and I can't break a promise! David insisted. You see,
father was rich once, and he's terribly proud. He doesn't want any one
to know we live in such a poor place, because somebody he used to know
might hear of it and try to help him, and that would break father's
His heart's in pretty bad shape, isn't it? Johnson Boller
Frightful! said David. And that's why I'll have to go now and
explain to him and think it all over and
Why think it over? Anthony rasped. Isn't your mind made up now?
Of course it is, the boy said hastily. Only I'll have to tell
father and then come back here in the morning, Mr. Fry; onlyI
have, to go home now!
His voice broke strangely.
Anthony Fry looked him over with a quantity of sour curiosity.
If the golden opportunity before his very eyes was making even the
trace of an impression on David Prentiss, the boy's faculty for masking
his true emotions was downright amazing. That bright, rather attractive
young countenance told of absolutely nothing but the heartfelt desire
to escape from the gentleman who wished to improve his condition.
It was the same old story, world-old and world-wide. David, once he
was out of this apartment, would never return; with opportunity fairly
pushing against him, he turned from her in terror, refusing to know
that she was there.
Well, then, he should see her!
Anthony's square chin set. He rose with a jerk and stood surveying
the nervous David, a tall, commanding, rather fearsome figure. Some
little time he transfixed the lad with his cold, hard eyes, while David
grew paler and paler; then he walked down upon David, who cringed
visibly, and seized his shoulders.
David, he said sternly, you have no conception at all of what I
am trying to offer you. I'm going to keep you here until you have.
Keep mehere? David faltered.
It was in Johnson Boller's mind to rise and deliver a little speech
of his own, pointing out the legal rights of David Prentiss and the
chance that, at some later date, interested parties might hear of this
evening and use it in moving Anthony toward an insane asylum. Yet he
did not speak, for he grew interested in David himself.
That bewildered youngster was shrinking and shrinking away from
Anthony. He was wilting before the stem eye, and he was smiling in the
sickliest, most ghastly fashion. And now he was nodding submissively
Yes, I'll stay, Mr. Fry.
Ah! said Anthony.
II'm glad to stay, David assured him.
Then, looking at Anthony, he contrived another smile and yawned; and
having yawned once, he yawned again, vastly, and stretching the second
Thethe trouble with me is that I'm sleepy, David stated, in a
strange, low voice. I get that way because I'm not used to late hours,
and when I do get sleepy II can't think or talk or do anything. I'll
be myself in the morning, Mr. Fry; but if I'm going to stay here, I'd
like to go to bed now.
He yawned again and still again, quite noisily and eying Anthony in
an odd, expectant, pleading way. Anthony, after a puzzled moment,
shrugged his shoulders and smiled.
Go to bed if you like, David, he said. There are one or two
things I want to say to you first.
Yes, sir, David said obediently.
To-morrow, when you have slept on it, I'm confident that you will
see the huge opportunity that I have offered you, and that you will
stay with me as one of my little household. It is not an exacting
position, but there are one or two laws you must remember. For the
firstno dissipation. You don't drink, David?
Not a drop, sir.
And for another, Anthony said gravely, no women!
Eh? said David.
Absolutely no women in this Hotel Lasande! Anthony repeated, with
a fanatic force that caused Johnson Boller to snort disgustedly and
throw up his hands. This is, perhaps, more strictly than any other
house in New York an all-man establishment. There are not even women
servants here, David, and other sorts of women don't run in and
out of here. In fact, the ladies who do comerelatives of the tenants,
of courseare so very few that they're all known to the clerks. So,
while you may have a sweetheart, David, and while she may be all very
well in her placekeep her out of here!
That's the unwritten law of the house, and it makes for profound
peace, Anthony concluded. You'll appreciate it more fully when you
have lived here for a time.
David, facing Mr. Fry, gazed at the floor and yawned again.
I guess I'll go to bed, he said weakly.
And before that we'll start you on the right track, Anthony said
with a gentle smile. You'll take a good, hot bath.
He pressed the button and Wilkins appeared.
The guest-chamber for young Mr. Prentiss, Wilkins, said Anthony.
You will outfit him with pajamas of my own and the gray bathrobe I
used last year. To-morrow we'll get you something that fits, David.
David nodded numbly.
And, Wilkins, said his master, you will assist Mr. Prentiss with
David's nod broke in two.
I don't want any help, he said.
Wilkins or anybody else; I don't want any help with a bath. I know
how to take a bath, at least. I don't know how you swells take yours,
but I take mine alone; I don't want any one pottering around me, and I
won't have it!
His countenance flushed angrily, and Anthony favored him with an
indulgent smile. After all, he was very young.
As you please, David. Show him to the north bathroom, Wilkins. That
But he tapped Wilkins's shoulder and held him back a moment to add:
And get his wretched togs, Wilkins. I'll dress him properly
to-morrow; but get those rags away from him.
Very good, sir, said Wilkins, as he glided down the corridor after
The proprietor of Fry's Imperial Liniment watched him go and smiled
softly, returning to his chair to grin at Johnson Boller in a perfectly
human fashion. Johnson Boller, on the other hand, did not grin at all.
He merely gazed at his old friend until, after a minute or two, Anthony
Wellwhat do you think?
I think you're a nut! Johnson Boller said with sweet candor. I
think you're a plain dawell, I think you're unbalanced. You know what
that young thug will do to you, don't you?
If he's the crook he looks, he'll light out of here about three in
the morning with everything but the piano and your encyclopædia. If he
isn't a crook, just as soon as he gets loose and talks it over with his
friends, he'll have you pinched for detaining him here against his
will; and I'll give you ten to one that he collects not less than
twenty-five hundred dollars before he's through. You scared him stiff
with your eagle eye and your crazy notions, and he pleaded guilty so he
could go to bed and get away from you. I'll have to testify to that if
he calls on me.
Fiddlesticks! said Anthony Fry.
Is it? Wait and see, Anthony, Johnson Boller said earnestly. That
kid spells trouble. I can feel it in the air.
You can always feel it in the air, Anthony smiled.
Maybe so; but this feeling amounts to a pain! Boller said warmly.
This is a huncha premonitionone of those prophetic aches that
can't be ignored. Why, he had a fight started before you had spoken ten
words to him, and
Oh, rot! Anthony said.
Johnson Boller drew a deep, concerned breath.
On the level, he said, are you going to keep this kid imprisoned
By no means, Anthony laughed. As a matter of fact, all I want to
do is to talk to him in the morning. I want to know, Johnson, whether
he will actually persist in fighting off the chance I'm offering
himbecause it's so confounded characteristic of the whole human race.
If he's as obstinate in the morning as he is nowwell, I suppose I'll
turn him loose with a ten-dollar bill, and look around for another
subject. I'd really like to approach a dozen men, picked haphazard, and
write a little paper on the manner in which they greet opportunity.
Yes, but not while I'm with you, Johnson Boller said. Anthony, do
thisget the kid aside in the morning and tell him you'd been drinking
heavily all day and didn't know what you were doing to-night. See? Make
a joke of it and slip him fifty to keep quiet, and then
Ah, Wilkins, Anthony smiled. Got his togs, did you?
The invaluable one bowed and held the shabby garments at a distance
from his person.
He passed them out to me through a crack in the door, he reported
disgustedly. What shall I do with them? They're hardly worth pressing,
Of course not. Don't bother with them, Anthony smiled, and waved
his man away. Johnson, turn intelligent for a moment, will you?
Why? Intelligence has no place in this evening.
Oh, yes it has. Let's examine the case of this David youngster and
try to reconstruct his emotions and his mental impressions when
confronted with opportunity such as
Damn opportunity! said Johnson Boller, rising with a jerk. I'm
going to bed!
* * * * *
Only once had Johnson Boller tarried in Montreal, and on that
occasion the thermometer had ranged about ninety in the shade. Yet now,
as he slumbered fitfully in Anthony's Circassian guest-chamber,
childhood notions of Canada came to haunt his dreams.
He saw snowlong, glistening roads of snow over which Beatrice
whizzed in a four-horse sleigh, with driver and footman on the box, and
beside her a tall, foreign-looking creature with a big mustache and
flashing eyes and teeth. He talked to Beatrice and leaned very close,
devouring her beauty with his eyes; and Johnson Boller groaned, woke
briefly, and drifted off again.
He saw ice; they were holding an ice carnival in Montreal, and
everybody was on skates. Beatrice was on skates, ravishing in white
fur, leading some sort of grand march with the Governor General of
Canada, who skated very close to her and devoured her beauty with his
bold, official eyes, causing Johnson Boller to groan again and thresh
over on his other side.
He saw a glittering toboggan slide; laughing people in furs were
there at the head of the slide, notably Beatrice, chatting shyly with a
blond giant in a Mackinaw, who leaned very close to her as they
prepared to coast and devoured her beauty with his large, blue eyes.
Now they settled on the toboggan, just these two, although Johnson
Boller's astral self seemed to be with them. The blond giant whispered
something, and they slid downdowndown!
And they struck something, and Johnson Boller was on his feet in the
middle of the Circassian chamber, demanding:
What's that? What was that?
Somewhere, Anthony was muttering and moving about. Somewhere else,
Wilkins was chattering; but the main impression was that the roof had
fallen inand Johnson Boller, struggling into his bathrobe, stumbled
to the door and burst into the brilliant living-room.
In the center of the room, flattened upon the floor, was Anthony's
substantial little desk. Papers were around it and blotters and letters
without number, and the old-fashioned inkwell had shot off its top and
set a black streak across the beautiful Oriental carpet.
Two chairs were on their sides, also, but the striking detail of the
picture was furnished by David Prentiss. That young man was sprawled
crazily, just beyond the desk, and beside him, holding him down with
both hands, was Wilkins, tastefully arrayed in the flowered silk
pajamas Anthony had discarded last year as too vivid.
I've got him, sir! Wilkins' pale lips reported, as his master
appeared. I have him fast.
What'd he do? Johnson Boller asked quickly. Pull a knife on you,
He'd not time for that, sir, Wilkins said grimly. I think he
stumbled over a chair and took the desk along with him, trying to get
out. I always wake just as the clock strikes two, and stay awake ten
minutes or more, and that's how I came to hear him and get him. He was
just getting to his feet when I ran in and turned on the lights, and
Let him up! Anthony said sharply.
But don't let go of him! Johnson Boller said harshly. I missed
the time by an hour, but I was right otherwise, Anthony. He's got the
silver and your stick-pins and rings on him, andwhat the dickens is
Silence fell upon them for a little, as David struggled to his feet
and looked about with a strange, trancelike starefor there was some
reason for Mr. Boller's query.
David, apparently, had dressed for the street. He wore shoes not
less than five sizes too long; he wore a bright brown sack coat which
came almost to his knees, and blue trousers which were turned up until
they all but met the coat. He had acquired a rakish felt hat, too,
which rested mainly on the back of his neck.
He got them clothes out of the junk-closet at the end of the
corridor, sir, Wilkins said quite breathlessly. He must have been
roaming the place quite a bit, to have found them, and
What were you trying to do, David? Anthony snapped.
I don't know, sir, David said vaguely, passing a hand over his
eyes in a manner far too dramatic to be convincing.
Where did you get those clothes?
I have no idea, sir, David murmured.
Don't lie to me! Anthony snapped. What
I'm not lying, sir, David said in the same vague, far-away tone.
I must have been asleep, Mr. Fry. I remember having a terrible
dreamit was about father and it seemed to me that he was dying. There
were doctors all about the bed and father was calling to me, and it
seemed to me that I must get to him, no matter what stood in the way. I
remember trying to go to him, and thenwhy, I must have fallen there,
sir, and wakened.
For an instant the vagueness left his eyes and they looked straight
May I go to father now? he asked. Thatthat dream upset me.
Morning will do for father, Anthony said briefly.
But I have a feeling that something terrible's going to happen if I
Anthony Fry laid a kindly hand on his shoulder.
Get back to bed, youngster, he smiled. You're nervous, I suppose,
being in a strange bed, and all that sort of thing. And incidentally,
get off those clothes and give them to Wilkins.
David gulped audibly.
I'll pass them out to Wilkins, if I must, sir, he said in the
queerest, choking voiceand he turned from them and shuffled down the
corridor to the north bedroom of Anthony Fry's apartment.
Curious kid! Anthony muttered.
Not nearly as curious as you are, said Johnson Boller. You didn't
even go through his pockets and get out the stuff while he was here,
and we could see just what he'd taken! You let him go in there and dump
the pockets before he gives up the clothes and
Anthony permitted himself a grin and a yawn.
My dear chap, go back to bed and forget it, he said impatiently.
The boy was stealing nothing. He may have been trying to escape; he
may have been walking in his sleep. Consciously or subconsciously, he's
certainly giving us a demonstration of humanity's tendency to dodge its
Johnson Boller gave it up and returned, soured, to his Circassian
walnut bedsteadsoured because, if there was one thing above all
others that he abominated, it was being routed out in the middle of the
Five minutes or more he spent in muttering before he drifted away
again, this time to arrive at somebody's grand ball in Montreal. It was
a tremendous function, plainly given in honor of Beatrice's arrival in
town, yet she was not immediately visible. Johnson Boller's dream
personality hunted around for some time before it found her in the
Behind thick palms, Beatrice sat with a broad-shouldered person in
the uniform of a field-marshal; he had a string of medals on his chest,
and he was devouring her beauty with his hungry eyes. Nay, more, he
leaned close to Beatrice and sought to take her hand, and although she
shrank from him in terror, there was a certain fascinated light in her
own lovely black eyes; she clutched her bosom and sought to escape,
Oh, my Lord! said Johnson Boller, awakening to stare at the dark
Somewhere a window slammed.
He listened for a little and heard nothing more; then, having the
room nearest the elevators, he heard one of them hum up swiftly and
heard the gate clatter open. And then there were voices and some one
knocked on the door of the apartment with a club, as it seemed.
Somebody else protested and pressed the buzzerand by that time
Wilkins had padded down the hall and was opening the door.
Johnson Boller caught:
Police officer! Lemme in quick! You've got a burglar in there!
CHAPTER V. The Wee Sma' Hours
Wilkins, in his official black, was a wonderfully self-contained
person; roused from slumber in pink-rosed silk, his self-control was
not so perfect, for as he struggled out of bed again Johnson Boller
God bless my soul, officer! What
Hush! interrupted an unfamiliar, horrified voice. Come inside
quickly and close that door.
Anthony was in motion, too. Johnson Boller, stumbling out of his
Circassian apartment, met him just entering the living-room from his
own chamber, and for an instant they stared at one another as they
knotted bathrobe cords about them.
You see? Johnson Boller said, with acid triumph. I was right,
The cops have tracked the little devil down for his last job,
whatever that may have been, and they've found him here! Now
you've got a nice scandal on your hands, haven't you? A tenth-rate kid
crook found hiding in the flat of Mr. Anthony Fry, with the full
knowledge and consent of
Upon my word, Johnson, I think you've lost your senses to-night!
Anthony snapped. Whatever is wrong, Wilkins?
The silk-pajamaed one indicated their visitors with a hand that was
none too steady.
It's Mr. Dodbury, the night manager, sir, and this policeman that
I'm afraid you have a burglar in here, Mr. Fry, the manager put in
agitatedly. I can't understand how it occurred; nothing of the kind
has ever happened to us before, and the mouth of that alley is
constantly under the eye of the firemen on that side of the
boiler-room. Moreover, there is a high gate from the street and I
cannot believe that any one
The burly officer halted him.
Well, however he got there, he was on the fire-escape and coming
down when I see him from the street, he said energetically. When he
seen me he turned into this north window and closed it after him, and
my partner'd have given me the whistle if he'd come out again. Which
room will it be, now?
Wilkins glanced significantly at his master.
If it's the north room on the fire-escape, sir, it must be the room
young Mr. Prentiss has to-night.
And the burglar is supposed to have gone in there? Anthony said
He ain't supposedhe went. I seen him! stated the law. And the
longer we stand here and talk about it, the more chance he has to kill
whoever's in there!
Well, as it happens, he isn't killing any one, because he isn't
there, Mr. Fry said patiently and with just a touch of contempt. Any
one entering that room must have wakened Mr. Prentiss, and he certainly
hasn't called for help. For that matter, I should have heard the window
myself, because I sleep very lightly. Nevertheless, if you wish, we
will go in there.
Impressively dignified even in his bathrobe, Anthony led the way
down the side corridor, with the four trailing after him. They came to
the door, and the officer pushed forward, club raised grimly over his
right shoulder as he laid his left hand on the knob.
Where's the light-switch in there? he whispered.
Right by the door, Wilkins supplied.
Duck in the second I turn the knob, throw on the light, and then
dodge along the wall, the law commanded briefly. Are you ready?
The invaluable one muttered his assent. The knob turned soundlessly
and the door flew open. Wilkins, with a distinctly terrified little
wheeze, pushed in, jabbed at the button, and scurried down the room on
his hands and knees, eyes shut to shield his brain from the horrible
Yet there was no hint of anything horrible. With all four corners of
the room in plain sight, with the empty closet partly open and its
interior fully visible, no burglar crouched, pistol in handno masked
malefactor leaped forward to stun the officer with his padded
lead-pipe. Only David Prentiss was in the room, and David slumbered
sweetly in the bed, the covers pulled tight up around his young chin, a
gentle dream-smile upon his regular features.
Well, wotter yuh know about the officer began.
Hush! Anthony said gently.
Don't wake the youngster! Anthony whispered sharply. There's no
need for that, officer. Look around if you like and then let us get out
He folded his arms and waited, while the officer, visibly puzzled,
poked about the room, and Wilkins, on his feet and smiling sheepishly,
tip-toed to the doorwhile the night manager of the Lasande stepped in
and looked about with a mixture of perplexity and relief, and Johnson
Boller stood and stared at the sleeping David.
Are you quite sure it was this window, officer? the manager asked.
I am that, if this is the one next to the corner of the house.
But are you quite sure that you didn't imagine it? Anthony asked
The policeman looked him over gravely.
Boss, when I can see a man in black clothes staring down at me,
letting off a little howl of fright, and then turning around and going
into a windowwhen I can see that and it ain't there, I'll turn in my
tin and go back to the docks. The guy came in this window and
Well, since it is quite evident that he didn't, he couldn't have
come in, the manager of the faultless hotel said hastily, as he caught
Anthony's expression. You've made a mistake in the window, officer.
We'll go down and look up from the street again and see just what
window you do mean.
We will not bother the gentlemen further, Mr. Dodbury said firmly.
Show them out, Wilkins. Come, Johnson.
Wait a second, Johnson Boller said softly, as the others filed out
Wait for what?
I want to admire this little cherub, sleeping here so soundly, Mr.
Don't be absurd! Come and
This thing of losing sleep rendered Johnson Boller uglier than could
anything else in the world.
Are they out of hearing? he said. All right. Somebody did close a
window in here. I heard it close!
Five minutes before the last excitement, said Mr. Boller. How
many pair of pajamas did Wilkins give this kid?
What? One pair, I suppose. Why?
Johnson Boller grinned almost wickedly.
Because there's a pajama suit under that chair and it's been worn!
said he. What's the kid wearing in bed there?
He stepped forward suddenly and jerked back the covers, and Anthony
stepped forward with a sharp little exclamation, for David Prentiss,
although he seemed to slumber between the sheets, wore a suit of black
clothes and a pair of black shoes, and beside him a black felt hat was
Maybe that cop wasn't the idiot he seemed, eh? Johnson Boller
I don't understand it, Anthony said angrily. IDavid!
The boy merely sighed in his sleep and turned on his back.
David! Johnson Boller snapped, thrusting a hard forefinger
directly into the pit of David's stomach.
Good gracious! gasped David Prentiss, sitting up and staring about
with eyes wide open. WhatI must have been asleep and
Anthony's gaze was growing keener and angrier by the second.
Never mind that artistic amazement, David, he said sourly. What
were you trying to do?
Trying? echoed David. To do?
Those are Wilkins's clothes. Where did you get them?
I don't know.
Yes, you do! Anthony snapped. You must have found them in his
David gazed up at him with the same unfathomable look that had so
disturbed Johnson Boller in the taxicab.
Very wellI did find them in his room, he said. I put them on
because I couldn't find my own clothes, and II wanted to get to
Yes, and now you're going to father! Johnson Boller said
decisively. Better let him go, Anthony.
David was on his feet with one swing.
That's the only thing to do with me, he said heartily. I'm too
much of a nuisance to keep around, Mr. Fry; I'm so worried about father
that I can't think of anything else. So now I'll go and
So now you'll stay right here! Anthony said fiercely.
Why? Boller asked.
Because I've undertaken to show this kid the opportunity of his
lifetime, and I'll drive it into his infernal little skull if I have to
chloroform him and have a surgeon drill a hole to let it through! Mr.
Fry said quite irresponsibly.
David collapsed hopelessly on the edge of the bed.
II should think you'd be so out of patience with me he began
I am, but I'm not going to drop the job on that account, Anthony
said grimly. Shed those clothes, David.
I'll shed 'em when you go out, David said monotonously. II'd
rather undress alone.
Johnson Boller's plump hands were on his plump hips and he surveyed
his old friend darkly.
Are you actually going to keep the youngster here against his
will? he demanded.
I am! snapped Anthony Fry.
Johnson Boller swallowed his wondering rage.
I hope you get all that's coming to you! he said. I hope he sues
you for a million dollars and collects every penny of it!
And he turned and thumped out of David's chamber, down the corridor,
and into the living-room, across the living-room, and into his own
bedchamberand there for a little he sat on the edge of the bed and
Presently he heard Anthony come through from David's room, muttering
to himself; he heard the switch snap, and the streak of light under his
With a long, weary groan, Johnson Boller slipped back to
slumberland, and presently he was again in Montreal. It was still
winter, and they were holding a skiing contest. Beatrice was there at
the top of the slide, and beside her stood a tall, foppish youth with a
little blond mustache. He leaned very close to Beatrice as he spoke,
and devoured her beauty with his hungry eyes.
In the east the first gray light of dawn was streaking the skies.
In Anthony Fry's living-room, ever so faintly, objects just took
shape in the gloom, coming foggily out of the inky blackness that had
been, even ten minutes ago. Down the corridor a door creaked, and for a
minute or more after the creak the stillness was even more pronounced.
Then, had one been awake and listening, the softest, lightest
shuffle came from the corridorpausedmoved on again. There was a
sharp intake of breath and the almost inaudible sound of a hand feeling
along the corridor wall, feeling along and feeling along, until it
touched the curtains of the living-room.
In the wide doorway of the dusky place an indefinite, strange figure
appeared and stopped. It wore slippers, several sizes too large. It
wore a bathrobe of gray, so long that its owner held it up from the
floor to avoid tripping. It wore pajamas, too, and of these the legs
were upturned almost one footfor they were Anthony's pajamas.
Warily the figure gazed about, squinting through the gloom for half
a minute, listening intently. Its frowzy brown head nodded then and the
bathrobed one tip-toed on, now with a definite idea of direction. Past
Anthony's door it went and past Johnson Boller's without a sound,
without a slipstopped to listen again, and then scuffed on toward the
far corner, where stood the little telephone table.
And now, trembling, the figure settled on the stool, and shaky hands
gripped the instrument itself. The receiver went to its ear and the
figure whispered into the transmittertrembled the harder and waited
through minutes that were hours, while from behind Johnson Boller's
door came an irregular snore and an occasional groan, as some new fiend
sought to capture Beatrice's slender hand.
Suddenly a visible shock ran through the stealthy figure at the
telephone. The trembling ceased abruptly and the figure stiffened,
leaning forward eagerly and cupping a hand about the transmitter.
Thrice it whispered shrilly, nodding desperately at the uncomprehending
instrument; and at last the listener at the other end seemed to
understand, for the figure pressed lips even closer and spoke swiftly.
A full two minutes of sharp whispering and it waitedlistened and
nodded animatedlyspoke again, enunciating each word clearly and still
so softly that one across the living-room could not have heard.
Without the suggestion of a click, the receiver was returned to its
hook. The figure rose cautiously and peered all about, through the
shadows, getting its bearings once more. Again the bathrobe was
gathered high above the grotesquely slippered feet; again the figure
shuffled along, moving toward the doorway.
Without a stumble it threaded its mysterious way between chairs and
little tables, divans and cases and pedestals, until it came safely to
the corridor. There it paused for an instant, and in the gloom the
faintest, excited giggle issued from beside the curtains. Then the
corridor doorway was empty, and Johnson Boller snored on and groaned.
At the end of the corridor David Prentiss's door closed and utter
stillness rested upon the apartment again.
* * * * *
After the skiing contest, although Johnson Boller did not seem to be
present at the end, all hands trooped off to a clubhouse of some kind
and there was a general jollification. Lovely women, handsome men
grouped about a long table, and waiters rushed hither and thither,
bearing viands and winealthough mostly wine.
He of the little blond mustache sat beside Beatrice, and as the
champagne came around for the second or third time he leaped from his
chair. Glass high held, he pointed to Johnson Boller's lovely wife with
the other hand; he was beginning a toast, the temperature and intimacy
of which caused Johnson Boller's fists to clench, andhe woke with a
violent jerk and stared at the ceiling.
It was daylighthad been daylight for some time, apparently,
because an early sun was reflected from the high building on the other
side of the street. Wilkins seemed to be moving around, too, which
indicated that it was at least six o'clock.
Johnson Boller stretched and snarled; he had had a wretched night of
it! He was tired all through, as he was always tired when his rest had
been broken. He was ugly as sin, too, and almost at once he found his
ugliness focusing on young David Prentiss.
If Anthony Fry had carried his obsession over into the daylight, if
he still persisted in poking his idiotic opportunity at David and the
end of it did not seem to be in sight, Johnson Boller decided that the
empty flat on Riverside should know its master's presence hereafter
andBoller sat up in bed, listening.
That was certainly Wilkins's voice, raised in horrorah, and
Wilkins was hurrying, too. Or no, it couldn't be Wilkins; that was
somebody a good deal lighter, rushing along the corridor. And now the
oddest babel of voices had risen, with Wilkins thrusting in an
incoherent word here and thereand now the voices were growing
fainter, all of a sudden, and he could hear Anthony Fry stirring in the
Something new had happened! Johnson Boller, swinging out of bed,
jammed his feet into his slippers and snatched up his bathrobe. Another
night like this, and he'd be ready for emergency drill with a fire
Not that there was any need for haste, though. By the time he had
opened the door and stepped into the living-room the little excitement
seemed to have quieted down again. Anthony, bathrobed also, was just
issuing from his bedroom, and again, for a moment, they gazed at one
What was it that time? Johnson Boller asked.
I've no idea. Did you hear it, too?
Why, Wilkins! Anthony Fry all but gasped, as his servitor appeared
in the doorway. What under the sun's the matter with you?
Mymy eye, sir! choked the faithful one. It's downright
scandalous, Mr. Fry!
Thethe woman, sir! The woman that's come to see him!
His jaw sagged senselessly and his blank eyes regarded his master
quite fishily; and Anthony, after a wondering second or so, scuffed
over to him and snapped:
What's wrong with you, Wilkins? What woman came?
Aa young Frenchwoman, I should judge, sir, Wilkins stammered.
She came to the door here, getting past the office I don't know how.
At any rate, she came, sir, and said some gibberish about Mr. David
Prentiss, and with that she was past me and inside, Mr. Fry.
Where is she now?
Well, sheshe's in his bedroom, sir! Wilkins stated. The young
chap came flying out like a madman, Mr. Fry, and threw his arms around
her, speaking French as I suppose. And sheshe threw her arms around
Mr. Prentiss, sir, and with that theywell, they're in there now,
Johnson Boller laughed unpleasantly.
Picked off a live one, didn't you, Anthony? said he. There's
nothing slow about David. He comes here and settles down at midnight,
and his lady friends are calling by six the next morning. When you
Anthony had passed him, chin set and lips rather white.
There are some places where the questionable may be passed over
quite lightly. The Hotel Lasande is not one of these places. There are
thousands upon thousands of bachelors who would merely have grinned
interestedly at the news; Anthony, being impeccable and a genuine
woman-hater at heart, was not of these thousands. Hence, even his lean
and aristocratic cheeks were white as he rattled at the knob of David's
He had expected to find it locked, and in that he was disappointed.
The door gave quite readily, admitting Anthony and Johnson Boller as
welland for a matter of seconds they stood transfixed before the
Beyond question, the woman was there!
She was little and very dark, decidedly pretty, for that matter, and
obviously fond of David Prentiss; she sat at David's side on the edge
of the bed and her arms were about Davidwhile young Mr. Prentiss
himself held her fast and seemed in a high state of excitement.
Even as the door opened, they had been speaking, both at the same
time and both in French, in itself rather an astonishing phenomenon;
but as the bathrobed gentlemen stopped beside them they ceased
speaking. They merely clutched each other the tighter and looked at
Well? Anthony Fry said slowly, and his voice was a terrible thing
Well? David said faintly.
His pretty little friend broke into a torrent of French, of which,
unfortunately, neither Anthony nor Johnson Boller could make anything
at all. David, with a long, gasping intake of his breath, muttered
something to her, and that proving futile, put a gentle hand over her
mouth. The girl, looking at Anthony, burst suddenly into loud and
For Heaven's sake, shut her up! gasped the master of the
You started herit was the way you looked at her! David said
Well, you stop her or I'll wring your neck! Anthony panted. You
can hear that over half the house.
He turned his eye back to the unfortunate and froze her into sudden
silence. Shaking, the girl crouched closer to David Prentiss, and
Anthony drew breath once more.
It was a horrible thing that had happened, of coursethis coming of
a strange woman into his apartment. It was likely to take a good deal
of explaining to the management of the Lasande, too, later on. But he
had brought it upon himself, and the realization caused Anthony's white
fury to glow.
Thisthis woman is a friend of yours? he choked.
One of thebest friends I have! David faltered.
How does she come to be here?
II sent for her, David confessed. I telephoned and
All right. That's enough, Anthony Fry said, composure returning in
some degree. Can she speak English?
Not one word.
Positively, the master of the apartment said slowly, the thing to
do is to have you both arrested, David. Don't start like that and don't
speak! There is a certain presumption that this woman is some sort of
accomplice, Davidnot much, perhaps, but one strong enough to hold you
until both of you had learned a lesson!
David, himself, white to the lips, was beyond words.
Nevertheless, Anthony pursued, only a trifle more gently, I shall
go to no such length, because of the character of the house and the
personal reflection such a mess would cast upon myself. Tell the woman
to go, David, and then you and I will have a little chat.
But David whispered.
Tell her to go this instant! Anthony thundered.
The boy in the oversize bathrobe looked at his girl friend with
stricken eyeslooked at Anthony for an instant, and turned away as
swiftly. He swallowed, and, lips trembling, addressed the little French
girl; and she started from him and threw out her hands in horror,
pouring out a torrent of words. David spoke again, however, and she
Show the woman to the door, Wilkins, and to the back stairs,
Anthony ordered, restraining himself with a considerable effort. Be
sure she doesn't go near the elevators. Quick!
David spoke again, in French and in a strange, low, forlorn wail.
The girl, as if at an eternal parting, thrust out the expressive hands
once more and gurgled hysterical Gallic snatches; and then Wilkins had
laid a hand on her shoulder, turned her about, and she was gone.
Johnson Boller looked after them and at his old friend.
Aren't you going to send the youngster after her? he asked with
the superior air of a man who has proved his case beyond a doubt.
Quite possibly, Anthony said, smiling a dangerous little smile.
But I mean to have a chat with David first.
Johnson Boller gazed at David for a moment and smiled himself,
almost happily. Unless indications were highly deceptive, Anthony, with
his precious reputation all mussed up by the pretty little French girl,
was mad enough to beat up David.
But Johnson Boller had no idea of sitting around and watching it,
later to waste days in a police court for David's wretched sake. Hence
he thumped out of David's room and back to his own.
Alone with his find, Anthony said not a word for a full minute, nor
did David. The boy, hunched on the edge of his bed, had passed the
capability of motion and even of thought; he merely stared at Anthony
with dazed, thunder-struck eyes that were very far from being
David, Anthony said savagely, however slightly unusual the
circumstances may have been, I brought you to this apartment for your
Um, David said numbly.
And last night I laid down for you the rule that you were to have
no women here.
David said nothing at all.
Yet even before we've dressed this morning, you manage to worm an
infernal woman in here andwhat the devil do you mean by it, anyway,
you infernal little whelp? Anthony cried, as his temper snapped.
Don't sit there and shiver! Answer me!
Still David said nothing.
Answer or I'll shake some wits into you! Anthony cried.
And by way of doing this he seized David's thick brown hair and gave
a first, threatening shake.
And having shakenAnthony Fry, the chilly and self-contained,
emitted one rattling, half-shrieking gasp and reeled backward!
CHAPTER VI. Johnson Boller Proposes
The whole head of brown hair had come free in his hand, and from
David's cranium, billow upon billow of red-gold glory floated down
about the bathrobed shoulders.
David, in fine, with no warning at all, had turned into a decidedly
pretty young woman!
Through Anthony's astounded brain, impressions pursued one another
so rapidly, those first few seconds, that the room danced crazily.
There were two or three Davids and oceans of reddish-gold hair; there
were several pairs of somber, deep-blue eyes as well, whirling around
and mocking him, regarding his quite steadily and all packed with new
Yet in the tumult several details, which had rather puzzled Anthony
Fry, grew painfully clear. Very fully now did he understand that
delicacy of featurethe small, beardless chin and the fine, regular
little nose, which he had ascribed to good blood somewhere in David's
family. He understood also the slenderness of David's hands and the
curious, high-pitched shrillness that had come into the voice once or
twice in moments of excitement.
But these were minor, insignificant realizations; he understood them
and passed them, forcing his brain to some sort of calm; and now, with
only one David in the room and the furniture quite steady again, he
stood face to face with what was really one of the most horrible facts
of his whole life; a pretty young woman, of whose identity he was
utterly ignorant, was in his guest chamber now, in pajamas and
bathrobeand she had been there all night!
Out of Anthony's limp fingers the wig dropped, landing on the floor
with a soft thump. He sought to speak and found that words would not
come as yet; he gripped at one of the little chairs and presently
discovered that his weak knees had lowered him into it, so that he sat
and still stared at David and
I wish you wouldn't kick that wig around, said his guest. I only
hired it for the night, you know.
The owner of Fry's Imperial Liniment pulled at the loose collar of
Youeryou he said intelligently.
I wouldn't faint, the girl said coolly. I'm not going to bite
you, you know. And please don't make those silly faces, either, Mr.
Fry. You've brought it on yourself. I'm not here by my own choosing.
I've done my level best to get out and
Anthony's voice returned explosively.
Why, he cried thickly, why didn't you tell me?
That I was a girl?
The lovely little mystery had kicked off her slippers and was
looking pensively at her bare feet. They were pink and tiny; as feet,
however, they belonged anywhere in the world but in Anthony Fry's
bachelor home, and he turned suddenly from them and looked at their
owner, who smiled faintly.
You look a lot saner when you're scared, she mused.
I'm coming to that, just because you do look saner, the girl
explained. I didn't tell you because I didn't dare. I thought you were
Who wouldn't, when you were talking that way about opportunity and
insisting that I stay here and all that sort of thing? the young woman
inquired tartly. It was plain enough that you were a crank, at the
best of it, and I didn't knowwell, it seemed better to take a chance
of getting out during the night.
Second by second, normal cerebration was returning to Anthony, and
although it caused him to grow colder and colder with plain
apprehension it also rendered his perspective more true, for he burst
Why in Heaven's name did you, a girl, ever come here in the first
What? The girl smiled flittingly and ruefully. Oh, there was a
reason for that, too.
What was it?
She of the Titian hair eyed him thoughtfully and shook her head.
Perhaps I'll tell you some other time, she said.
Why not now? Anthony snapped.
You wouldn't be any happier for knowing, just now, the girl said
Her pajamaed legs, swathed in the mighty bathrobe, crossed
comfortably Turkish fashion, and she considered Anthony with her calm,
quizzical eyesand of a sudden an overwhelming helplessness surged
through Anthony Fry and he had more than a little difficulty in
concealing the slight tremble of his limbs.
For if the boy David had been a nervous, frightened creature, the
lady who had succeeded him was almost anything else! David had been
timorous and given to shrinking; the girl was all quiet assurance.
David's eyes had been frightened and round; these eyes were just as
round, but, as much as anything else, they seemed to express mild
amusement at Anthony's discomfiture.
And that was the way of the whole sex, Anthony reflected bitterly.
Having enmeshed mere man and entangled him, hands, feet, and everything
else, it was woman's habit to sit and stare calmly, just as this one
was sitting and staring, wordlessly inquiring just what he meant to do
Who are you? he asked dizzily.
Um, said the girl meditatively. Well, if you find it necessary to
call me anything, call meerMary.
But your other name
You wouldn't be any happier for knowing that either, the girl
assured him serenely.
What on earth does that mean? Anthony demanded, with almost a
return of his old imperious manner.
Mary gazed fixedly at him for a moment, deeply and inscrutably and
with that in her eyes which, although he could not name it, caused
Anthony's chilly blood to drop several more degrees.
Don't ask me what it means, because I might tell you, and you
wouldn't be any happier for knowing that! the girl said
But the Frenchwoman? Anthony essayed, lunging off in another
direction. Who was she?
Well, she was my personal maidat least it won't hurt you to know
that much, Mary dimpled. I sent for her and asked her to bring my bag
andthere's the bag.
One pink foot indicated it, and for many seconds Anthony's
dumfounded eyes stared at the thing. There was an intricate monogram on
one end, which he could not decipher; otherwise, it impressed him. The
bag was a very, very expensive bit of luggage and his failing heart
thumped a trifle harder.
No stray young woman owns a bag like that and a French maid to carry
it around; no adventurous female waif of the type one might expect to
find wandering about in masculine raiment speaks in the unquestionably
cultivated tone that Mary was using now. And no clear-eyed,
clear-skinned young female friend of Mary's type ever belonged to the
Mary was a person of parts and position. How she had appeared at the
fight, Anthony, if he had wonderful luck, might never learn; but the
fact remained that he had detained her against her will in his
apartment, and possibilities loomed so swiftly and numerous before his
mental vision that his throat tightened.
Youyou're a respectable young woman! he said hoarsely.
Thank you, unquestionably, Mary smiled dryly.
Anderas such, the thing to do is to get you out of here as
quickly and as inconspicuously as possible.
I've been trying to get out inconspicuously myself, Mary
Anthony rose and his sickly smile appeared again.
I cancan only apologize and assume all the blame, he said
unsteadily. I will have Wilkins bring you your clothes, and as soon as
you are dressed we will
You mean those men's clothes? Mary asked sharply.
And go out in them in daylight?
I wouldn't do that for an even million dollars! Mary informed him.
But you'll have to do that! said Anthony.
But I will not have to do it, because I won't do it! the girl said
flatly and with considerable warmth. Why, every man, woman, and child
in the street would know, the very second they looked at me, and Ioh,
no! I won't do that!
There's nothing else to do! Anthony cried desperately.
Youeryou don't understand this hotel, young woman. A woman seen
leaving one of these apartments and going out of the house, more
especially at this time of the dayer
He flushed angrily.
Yes, I know, Mary said helpfully. But I'm not going out in those
clothes if I stay here and die of old age.
And here, from the end of the corridor, Johnson Boller's deep,
carrying voice came:
Has he kicked the kid out yet, Wilkins?
Not yet, sir, said Wilkins's grave tone.
What? Is he going to keep him here after all?
I should judge so, sir. There's been no disturbance down that way.
Well, what, Johnson Boller muttered audibly, do you know about
It's most distressing, sir! Wilkins replied.
Anthony Fry's pupils dilated.
He's coming down here, I think! he said. Get on that wig again!
Why? Mary inquired, pausing in the process of knotting up her
Because BollerBoller Anthony stammered wildly. There is no
need of his knowing that you're aa young woman, now or in future. I
am speaking for your own sake, you know. You may meet him a thousand
times elsewhere in years to come, and there's a mean streak in Boller
Is there? Mary asked, with what was really her very first touch of
concern since resuming her proper sex. Give me the wig, then.
Fortunately, at the living-room end of the corridor, Johnson Boller
devoted a good five minutes to meditation. He had finished his usual
lightning morning tub and resumed his bathrobe in a more cheerful frame
of mind, quite confident that David Prentiss was no longer in their
midst. He had even prepared a peppery line of chaffing for the
breakfast table, the same dealing with the visit of a pretty little
French girl to the irreproachable apartment and the various methods by
which Anthony Fry could explain the matter to the management, should he
be requested to explain.
Yet David was still with them andif quiet down there meant
anythingwith them to stay. Anthony's trouble remained with him this
morning; even now, undoubtedly, he was sitting in there and hurling
opportunity again and again at David's invulnerable armorand if the
idiotic idea had taken as firm a grip as that the end might be days
away, just as it had been in the case of the yeggmen.
It gibed not at all with Boller's plans for his visit to Anthony. He
caressed his chin and scowled for a little; later, he smiled grimly.
After all, there are more ways of killing a cat than by drowning the
animal in champagneand David was a tender shoot as yet.
Johnson Boller flexed his muscles and examined his smile in the
mirror. It was a broad, genial expression, all warm and friendly; and
without permitting one of its curves to slip from place he strode down
the corridor and threw open the door of David Prentiss's chamber.
Hunched up in his big bathrobe, the boy was sitting on the edge of
the bed, while Anthony stood across the room with his back wisely to
the light. It was entirely plain that the trouble had gone up in smoke
and that the presumably angry interview had flattened out to a love
feast; David had not been and, so far as concerned Anthony, would not
be ejectedyet instead of protesting Johnson Boller said jovially:
Licked him into shape, eh?
AhDavid has explained, Anthony managed.
Got the trouble all smoothed over, eh?
Johnson Boller laughed mightily and winked at David. Further, he
stepped over and slapped David's backno mere friendly tap, but a
whack that nearly sent him from the bed.
Who was the squab, kid? he cried. Who
Don't hit him like that! Anthony gasped.
Tap like that won't hurt him! Johnson Boller chuckled as David,
suppressing a shriek, managed to grip the bed and regain his balance.
Who was the Gallic chicken, my lad?
Aa friend of mine, David said weakly.
I betcher! said Johnson Boller significantly. I got a line on her
the second I laid eyes on her, kid. Now, I want to tell you something.
You're a young sport and these things look different to you now, but
the long and the short of a dizzy little
Johnson! Anthony broke in.
Itit is not necessary to advise David, said David's captor,
quite thickly, for he was familiar with Johnson Boller's views on many
subjects and his manner of airing them. The boy haserexplained
theahyoung woman and
He could get no farther. Johnson Boller eyed him with an amused and
Going to keep this kid with you?
For a time, yes.
You know, you're a funny character, Anthony, Boller mused. If
your great-grandmother came to this joint to have a cup of tea with
you, you'd want her to stop at the desk and show her pedigree and the
family Bible, just so they'd be sure she was your great-grandmother,
and your lovely reputation wouldn't have a spot of suspicion on it as
big as a pinpoint. But you go and rake this kid off the streets and
when his lady friends come inWhere did she come from, kid, and how
did she get up here?
His smile broadened happily as he observed that David had not yet
ceased wiggling his back in search of broken bones.
I explained all that to Mr. Fry, David said rather sulkily.
I know, Davy, but that doesn't count for anything, Mr. Boller
chuckled. You see, Mr. Fry's a bachelorhas been all his life and
expects to be if he lives to be a hundred. What he doesn't know about
females in general would fill a string of libraries from here to
Battery Park and half way across to Staten Island.
You've probably told him the squab was your sister and he fell and
said what a pretty sister she was. But as for me, Daveyou
couldn't put that stuff over if you tried a month. I'm the original
specialist in everything female; I've got a kind of sixth sense that
tells me all about them before I've even seen 'em and after I've looked
at 'em once I can tell you where they were three weeks ago last
Saturday night. You can't fool me when it comes to women.
Well, now, suppose we drop the subject and Anthony began
Let me slip this kid some real advice, said Mr. Boller. Davy, I
know all sorts of womengood and bad and the kind you think are all
right, but aren't! Get me? You're only a boy, and offhand I'd say that
this French damsel belonged in the latter class. At a guess, you met
Stop! cried Anthony Fry in pure terror.
Johnson Boller gazed mildly at him.
If you're going to adopt this kid, Anthony, you might better let me
put him wise to some of his past mistakes and tell him how to avoid 'em
in his new life. I don't know what lie he put over on you, but you know
as well as I do that the just-right kind of boy isn't receiving
mysterious calls before seven in the morning from a highly
Stop! gasped Anthony. Whateverwhatever advice David
needs I shall give him myself!
Johnson Boller sighed and shrugged his shoulders, as if casting
aside a responsibility he had assumed only because of a strong sense of
duty. It was a little disappointing, because he had figured fully on
rousing Davidwho must be a white-livered, spiritless little whelp, by
the wayand having David rush to the defense of his mysterious lady.
He had counted fully on David's voice rising and then upon raising his
own, in spectacular anger, so that a real noisy rumpus would develop in
Anthony's flat and send David's stock a little farther down.
Instead, he had only roused Anthony; and Anthony certainly was a
curious cuss, when one came to think of it! He was standing over there
now, almost dead white, not trembling but looking as if he would like
to tremble with rage.
And for what?
Because, ostensibly, his oldest friend had tried to advise the boy
he had snatched from a prize-fight. Johnson Boller shook his head. That
opportunity business had been queer, but still it had been quite like
Anthony in his eccentric momentsbut this continuation of the
queerness was bad! Before sixty, Anthony Fry would have settled down in
some nice, comfortable sanitarium.
These things, however, were not the moment's chief concern. It
behooved Johnson Boller to try the second section of his hasty little
plan, if David were to be ousted from the flat. Hence, he allowed his
benevolent, genial grin to return; he flashed it upon Anthony and then
upon the boy.
As you please, said he, although I don't know how much good he'll
get out of the kind of advice you're able to give him. Howeverthat's
your lookout. Going to turn him into a man, eh?
Yes, Anthony said thickly.
Johnson Boller yawned, by way of demonstrating unconcern.
Well, kid, it's pretty soft for you, but since Mr. Fry's determined
on the job I'll be around for the first month to offer whatever
assistance may be within my power, said he. Good mealsearly
hoursregular habitsall that sort of thing. And then, of course, a
proper amount of athletic work to keep you fit.
Yes, David agreed.
Don't be so hellish surly about it, smiled Mr. Boller. How are
you, Davidpretty athletic?
Athletic enough, David submitted.
That means, I suppose, that you never raise a hand unless somebody
pays you to do it. That'll never do, boy. Regular, scientific training
means everything to a man who wants to keep his health. Look at me! Ten
years ago I weighed fifty pounds more than I do nowsick half the time
and disgusted with life the other half. I got over it and to-day I feel
like a two-year-old. What did it?
David was looking at Anthony.
Exercise did it! stated Johnson Boller. Stand up here?
What for? David asked quickly.
I'm going to teach the first principles of bounding health to you.
If David needs any training, it can be arranged for later, Anthony
put in hastily. You see, Johnson, although
Anthony, his friend interrupted firmly, you'll have to pardon me,
but there are some things about which you know no more than an unborn
kitten and one of them is physical training. I, on the other hand, have
paid out about five thousand dollars to different specialists, and what
I don't know about keeping fit hasn't been discovered yet. You do your
share for the kid and I'll do mine, and later on he'll thank me more
than he does you, Stand up, David.
Stand up and I'll show you the elementary ideas of boxing, smiled
Johnson Boller. Come! Don't be a mollycoddle!
He waited, fists clenched loosely, smiling artlesslyalthough it
was a bitter, cowardly thing that was in his heart.
Johnson Boller, be it admitted, intended to beat up David Prentiss;
with the youngster's good as his shallow pretext, he meant to bruise
David's young anatomyand when this bruising was over to contrive
another occasion and bruise it furtherand after that to discover
additional excuses and continue the bruisinguntil David Prentiss
should flee the flat in sheer terror.
Hence, he smiled again and said:
Come, kid! Come! Stand up or I'll soak you right there!
Johnson! Anthony said sharply.
Like that! said Johnson Boller, jabbing suddenly before the
protest could take form.
And now Anthony cried aloud, for the boy had toppled over
backwardand almost immediately Anthony's teeth shut with a click.
Because young David, eyes flashing, had bounced up again and was on his
feet. One of his small fists, tight shut, had whisked out and met
Johnson Boller's countenance with a loud crack.
And Mr. Boller, expelling his breath with an amazed hiss, had lost
his balance and was sitting on the floor!
CHAPTER VII. The Butterfly
One bad feature of having passed one's earlier days in the remote
fastnesses of New England, in the era before the automobile and the
telephone came to complicate life, is that one's ideas of womanhood are
likely to be definite and rooted.
Part of Anthony's boyhood had been spent in a Massachusetts hamlet
nine miles from the nearest railroad, and at forty-five he had not
fully recovered from some of the effects.
Even after decades of New York, Anthony's notion of woman embodied a
prim creature, rather given to talking of her sorrows, able to faint
prettily on occasion, and, unless born to the coarser form life, a
little fatigued after dusting the parlor.
She was a creature, lovely and delicate, who played croquet as the
extreme of exercise and never even watched more violent sports. She did
not golf; she did not swim or shoot. She was, in a word, one hundred
per cent. feminineand about the most scandalous thing that could be
suggested about her was that she savored, even one per cent., of the
So, while another type of citizen, possessed of all the facts, might
have thrown up his hands in glee and laughed merrily at the sight of
Johnson Boller sitting there on the floor, Anthony Fry merely stood
Minute by minute, he was understanding more fully just what manner
of individual his insistence had inducted into his chaste home. She was
a female in sex only! She was no timid little thing, swooning and
weeping at her terrible predicament; she was the sort that dons
trousers and goes to prize-fightsbut what was infinitely worse, if
one judged by that resounding whack, she was herself a prize-fighter!
Anthony, you see, was a mild enthusiast about the fighting game;
when he saw a genuine short-arm jab he recognized it instantly.
And going furtherfor he could not help doing thatwhat was to be
the end of the mess? Last night, could his addled head but have
permitted it, she would have gone away gladly as a boy. Now that the
truth was out, she was making no effort to escape; far worse, just at
this minute, she seemed bent on continuing the fistic battle, for she
stood and fairly glared down at Johnson Boller.
Ten seconds had passed since the resounding thump which proclaimed
that heavy gentleman's meeting with the floor, and still he had not
risen. Five of them he spent in staring blankly up at David; three he
spent in gathering a scowl; the final two found his plump countenance
turning to an angry redand Johnson Boller was struggling to his feet,
Say, kid he began gustily and threateningly.
Anthony Fry came to life and, with a bound, was between them.
Let this thing stop right here, Johnson! he said ringingly. No
more of itdo you understand? No more!
No more, your eye! panted Johnson Boller. Get out of the way
before I knock you out!
Johnson, I refuse to permit you Anthony cried, and with both
lean hands pushed back on Mr. Boller's heaving chest.
Look here, Anthony, said Johnson Boller, with plainly forced calm;
when a dirty little guttersnipe like that hits me a foul blow,
There wasn't anything foul about that blow, David said calmly.
That was a nice clean jab, and nothing like the one you gave me
without warning and while I was sitting down.
That's enough, David! Anthony said.
He started it, David submitted.
Anthony pushed on. Johnson Boller was against the bureau nowhad
been there for some seconds, indeedand his expression was changing.
Young David, to be sure, had rendered him slightly ridiculous for a
bit, but getting mad about it was not likely to help in eliminating
It's all right, Anthony, Mr. Boller said with a sudden grim smile.
Don't shove me through the wall. I won't hurt the kid.
You'll not lay hands on him?
That's a promise?
Why, of course it is! Johnson Boller said heartily.
Anthony Fry heaved a great, shaky sigh and stood back. It had not
happened that time. David's wig was still in place, and David was still
David. Yet, all other things apart, what if David's wig had slipped?
What if, during the thirty or forty years he still had to live, Anthony
must have cut out Johnson Boller's really stimulating friendship, or
have listened, day in and day out, night in and night out, at every
meeting and on every sly occasion, to a recital of what had happened
The strain was really growing too much. Johnson Boller would have to
get out of here now andalthough why was Johnson Boller smiling so
Quite a little boxer, kid, aren't you? he was asking in the most
I've boxed with my brother, David said.
Made a study of it, eh?
So-so, said David.
They were going to have a little conversation now, which gave
Anthony a minute or two for thought. First he would get Johnson Boller
out of here on the plea that it was time to dress; then he would have
David's man-clothes brought, and, in one way or another, he would
persuade David to don them. It could be worked, the calmer Anthony
assured himself, and then
Well, if you're inclined that way, there's nothing like keeping in
shape for it, Mr. Boller was saying as he fumbled at the knot of his
bathrobe. I'll show you my back muscles and then show you how
Johnson! Anthony exploded.
Well, what in the name of common sense is the matter with you? Mr.
Ithat is to say, Davidyour confounded back muscles don't
interest him, Johnson. Not one particle! Do they, David?
Not a bit! David said faintly from the corner toward which he was
So let this physical-training rot rest! cried the master of the
apartment. Go and dress and
My dear fellow, Johnson Boller broke in mildly, you are, so far
as physical training goes, a nice old lady. But for Heaven's sake, if
you're going to keep this boy, don't try to bring him up along similar
lines. Go look over your bean-pole anatomy, and you'll need no further
argument. This kid is young and supple, and fit to be whacked into a
real man andsay, get out of here for fifteen minutes, Anthony, will
I'm going to strip this youngster and look him over, and then start
him on the right track, Mr. Boller said with an unconscious and
affectionate glance at his fist.
Mr. Fry! gasped David.
Well, has this mollycoddle stuff in the air infected you, too?
Johnson Boller asked tartly. Don't you want to be a man?
Johnson Boller laughed scornfully.
Anthony, I think your presence is a bad influence, he said. Will
you please get out of here? Shed that bathrobe, kid, and let's see if
there's anything to you but pulp!
No! said David.
Well, I say yes, and I say it for your own good! Johnson Boller
said firmly as he advanced. I'm going to make a man of you!
You can't! said David thinly.
I can, boy! Believe me, I can! Mr. Boller smiled. Get out of that
He was advancing. Ten seconds more and he would lay violent hands on
David, and Anthony Fry, with a wrench that racked his very soul, hurled
back every emotion and contrived a really quiet smile. More, even; when
he spoke it was in the tone of one merely amused and slightly tried in
You mean well, old chap, he said, laying a firm hand on Johnson
Boller's arm, but you're a crank on this gymnastic business. Don't be
absurd, pleaseyou're fairly frightening the boy. Later on, perhaps,
when he is more accustomed to you and the surroundings, and all that
sort of thing, you may take him in hand. Just now it is well past seven
o'clock, and I'm hungry. Come to your senses and get dressed, Johnson,
if only as a favor.
His eye was firm and steady; and having faced it for a moment,
Johnson Boller shrugged his shoulders again. And yet he had not
inflicted even one bruise on David, but pressing the matter now was
likely to do no more than excite Anthony, and there was still time.
As head of his particular woolen concern, Johnson Boller could well
spend the whole morning away from the office, so that it gained him the
chance of hammering the boy to a jelly and ousting him from Johnson
Boller's temporary home. Mr. Boller, therefore, sighed a little in
disappointment as he said:
If you insist. I'd rather put the kid through his first paces
naked, of course, because then one
Yes, some other time, doubtless, Anthony said hastily. Get along
now, Johnson and dress.
They were alone again, Anthony and David.
David's color was decidedly higher, and his eyes burned with a
mixture of fright and indignation, while the bathrobe was clutched
defensively about his throat. Anthony himself had lost his pallor, and
on his high, thoughtful forehead a glistening glaze had come into
being. He dabbed it away with his handkerchief and glanced fearfully
toward the door.
This isermost embarrassing! he breathed.
It is for me! said the apparent David. What's the matter with
He has his own ideas about most things, Anthony said with a
shudder. However, he is out of the way now anderthe next thing is
to get you out, also.
I am sorry, Miss Mary, truly sorry if it displeases you, Anthony
went on carefully; but there is really only one way for you to leave
quite safely. This house, you see, is rather different from other
houses. It would be possible to send for yourahproper clothing and
have you leave as the doubtless prepossessing young woman that you are;
but to do that you would have to pass through the office downstairs,
and the elevator men would know that you came from this apartment.
Ah? said Mary, without expression.
And inasmuch as every one here knows that I'm not married, and that
I have no female relatives or even friends of your age, theahvery
I see, said Mary, as he paused and flushed. Go on.
She was not exactly helpful, sitting there and staring at Anthony
with her great, deep-blue eyes. They were very beautiful eyes,
doubtless, but they caused Anthony's mind to stagger as he labored on.
There are the back stairs, of course, but to pass them it would be
necessary to meet servants and employees of the house in half a dozen
places; I believe there is even a gate-keeper of some sort below
andoh, the back stairs would not be at all possible! said Anthony as
he pushed the button for Wilkins. I deplore the necessity of sending
you out as you came, Miss Mary, buterWilkins! Mr. Prentiss's
clothes, if you please.
What of them, sir? Wilkins asked blankly.
Bring them here.
But I can't do that, Mr. Fry.
Why not? Anthony asked crisply.
You told me to dispose of them last night, sir. I've thrown them
Anthony caught his breath.
Where have you thrown them?
Out with the other refuse of the day, siron the dumbwaiter.
Thenwell, never mind. That is all, Wilkins, said Anthony Fry,
his voice thickening somewhat.
The invaluable one retired, with a last disapproving glance at the
frowsy David, and Anthony's forehead wrinkled. David, the while, sat
hunched on the bed and seemed altogether unaffected by the disaster.
Well, you'll have to make the best of some of my wardrobe, I fear,
the master of the apartment smiled.
Yours? Mary cried.
They will be a trifle large, but you'll have to hitch them up in
spots and in in other spots and make the best of it, Anthony pursued
firmly. It's too bad, of course, but it is unavoidable. Those togs of
yours were decidedly shabby and I had meant, while supposing you to be
a boy, that to-day we'd have some shopping done for you. Just a moment,
He left the room with a nervous stride altogether unlike his usual
dignified glide. He turned, wildly almost, into the nearest closet in
the corridor and switched on the light. There was the dark gray suit,
which was too loose even for Anthony, and the dark brown suit, which
happened to be too long for him; but the old blue suitah, that was
Very earnestly, Anthony tried to assure himself that it had been
both far too tight and far too short in every detail, at its last
wearing; almost pathetically he sought to tell himself that David in
the old blue suit would look quite like a young man wearing his own
clothesand with the old blue suit over his arm and a pair of shoes in
the other hand, he tip-toed back to David.
This is the next best thing to the clothes you wore, and I'm sure
you'll find them quite all right, said he.
Me get into those? Mary murmured with the same strange apathy.
Most certainly, and I've thought out the rest of itthere while I
was locating this suit, Anthony pursued, with what was meant for a
reassuring smile and making his jerky way to the little desk in the
corner of the guest chamber. I shall give you a note, David, addressed
to a mythical person and unsealed.
So that, on the remote chance of any one in this house questioning
your presence, you can show that you're merely delivering a gripyour
ownfor me! smiled Fry, as he scribbled. Rather clever, that, eh?
Horribly clever! Mary said enigmatically.
Two long minutes the pen scratched on, while Mary watched his back
with the same inscrutable, almost unwinking stare. Then Anthony turned
with a smile.
This is to Mr. J. Thurston Phillips at the Astor Hotel, said he.
If I were you, I'd carry it rather conspicuously; it's quite possible
that the clerk downstairs may want to know who you are. And, also if I
were you, I'd explain that you're the son of an old friend of mine and
a stranger in the city and that I put you up overnightsomething like
that. You understand?
I hear you say it, said Mary.
Anthony's countenance darkened a little as he rose.
Then please pay strict attention to what I say! he said. I am
doing my best to undo an absurd piece of business. I'm quite ready to
admit that it is just that, but the blame isn't quite all my own. You
should have told me the truth. Now, when you're dressed and
readysimply leave! Just walk down the corridor to the door, please,
open it and go. There's no need of risking another inspection by Mr.
Boller; you look decidedly less like a boy in daylight, believe me. Is
I suppose it is, sighed Mary, with a significant glance at the
Anthony allowed himself a single sigh of relief.
This, then, is our parting, he said, with a faint, Kindly smile.
I ask your pardon and the best thing I can wish you is a safe return
Au revoir, Mary said, with another glance at the door.
She seemed to have accepted the situation, blue suit and all; she
was a sensible little thing, Anthony reflected almost comfortably, as
he hurried back to his own room and his bath.
And now he would rush through the dressing process himself, as he
had never rushed before, and by some means he would manage to keep
Johnson Boller in his own room and out of sight of the corridor, until
the telltale closing of the door assured him that one of his life's
most painful episodes was over.
It had not been entirely without humor. Later onmuch later
onAnthony assured himself that he would have many a good laugh in
private over the youth upon whom he had tried to thrust
opportunitylaughs that would be the richer and more enjoyable because
he alone possessed the key to the joke. That would be after the shock
had passed, of course; enough for the present to sigh again and again
and think gloriously that each second brought David that much nearer to
Yet David had not departed, even when Anthony had given the last
twitch to his morning coat and the last dab to his thin, rather prim
hair. He listened, as he entered the living-room, and then risked a
quiet trip across and looked down the corridor; David's door was closed
tightly andyes, even though it caused Anthony's hair to rise and his
cheek to flush angrily, David was singing a faint little snatch of song
in a perfectly indubitable soprano!
The little fool should have had more sense; Anthony listened,
started down to halt the song and turned back as quickly, to head for
Johnson Boller's room and engage that citizen in conversation, for that
was the important thing just now. He turned the knob and would have
entered rather breezily, but that Johnson Boller, fully groomed and
ready for the day, walked out suddenly and resistlessly and looked
Where's the kid?
Erdressing, said Anthony.
Where's breakfast? Mr. Boller pursued.
Inspiration came swiftly to Anthony.
I breakfast in here as a rule, said he, butjust this morning,
you knowI thought we might go below. It's not so quiet down there and
there's more to see, Johnson, and
Johnson Boller sprawled comfortably in a chair near the corridor and
Nix! said he, with a shake of the head. We'll eat right here; I'm
all done with that noisy stuff, Anthony, and this is more homelike. And
then, another thing, he added more seriously, I want to cross-examine
that little shaver in private, as it were. This idea of settling him in
the house without knowing anything about him is downright crazy. I want
to ask him about that French doll and.
He stopped. The window at the end of the corridor was open and the
fresh morning breeze was blowing lightly past him. Also, he sniffed.
Who's using perfume around here? asked Johnson Boller.
Strongrank! said Anthony's guest. Don't you smell it?
I smell nothing, Anthony said, as an expensive pungence tickled
his nostrils suddenly, but I'll see
He started for the corridor and stopped short. David had left his
room and was coming downand still, it did not sound like David!
David, in Anthony's shoes, six or seven sizes too large, should have
been thumping clumsily; these footsteps were firm little pats, with the
sharp rap of a heel once or twice on the polished floor beside the
runner. More still, with no regard at all for caution, David, using his
soprano voice, was humming the same little tune.
And just as pure premonition had sent Anthony's skin to crawling,
just as his scalp was prickling and his eyes narrowing angrily, David
was with them.
By way of raiment, David, the grip emptied, wore the daintiest
tailored walking-gown, short of skirt and displaying silken stockings
and patent leathers, with high, slender French heels. David's slim,
round, girl-throat suggested the faintest powdering; David's abundant
hair was dressed bewitchingly, with little reddish-blond curls straying
down about the templesand had one spent a morning on Fifth Avenue it
would really have been rather difficult to find a more thoroughly
attractive or better gowned girl than David!
Yet, in spite of her charms, Johnson Boller, who had bounced
instinctively from his chair, could do no more than stare at David with
the general expression of a fish new-snatched from water. Second after
second he gaped before his thick:
That's David! Anthony said weakly.
Thethe boy was a girl?
It would seem so.
Then Johnson Boller stopped, teeth shutting suddenly. He
stared at the young woman and he stared at Anthony Fry, who smiled
faintly and hopelessly. His face grew red and then purple and then
Hah! he cried savagely. I've got it! I've got it, youyou
Hey? said Anthony.
I see it now! Mr. Boller vociferated surprisingly. You framed
this thing up on me!
CHAPTER VIII. Scorned
Anthony's brain, accustomed to the most precise and unexciting of
routines, was tirednot nearly so tired as it was destined to become,
yet too tired to grasp at once the significance of that flaming
countenance. He could no more than stand limply and look at Johnson
Boller, as that gentleman, ignoring Mary altogether, strode down upon
him with clenched fists.
You did it, but you'll never get away with it! he cried.
Never in the world! I've got Wilkins as a witness and
Witness for what?
Johnson Boller, albeit he trembled with fury, controlled himself.
Don't try that baby-stare stuff on me, Fry, he said. I understand
now. Last night I thought you were off on one of your eccentric spells,
but you were crazy like a fox, you were! But don't think for one minute
that Beatrice is fool enough to drop into such a trap!
Anthony himself did a little controlling.
What are you talking about? he cried.
The thing you've tried to put over, to get me away from Beatrice!
Johnson Boller thundered. That's enough! Don't deny it! I know you
don't approve of matrimony; I know you never wanted me to get married;
I know that we haven't traveled around as much this last six months as
we did in the twenty years before itand I suppose you've been lonely,
because nobody else in the world would stand for you. But by Heaven,
Anthony, I never thought you'd try to break up my family by
Try to do what?
Johnson Boller dashed the sweat of fury from his eyes.
I come to stay with you, when Beatrice goes, he said tremblingly.
And although there's no woman in this flat ordinarily, a woman's here
Stop there! Anthony Fry cried savagely. Do you mean that I
brought this woman here deliberately? Do you mean that I knew?
Knew! Johnson Boller jeered.
Then I tell you that you're an infernal ass, sir, and I decline to
defend myself! Anthony snarled fiercely. You! You lovesick fool and
your crazy imagination! You're too much in love to reason, butwhat
Well, what about you? Johnson Boller sneered.
I, said Anthony, have borne the reputation of a decent man! No
women have ever been in this apartment before, save one or two
relatives! No woman of any description has ever passed the night here
before. And yet now, when this infernal thing has happened, your poor
addled witsoh, bah! Bah, sir!
Don't bah at me! Mr. Boller said dangerously, although not quite
so dangerously, because Anthony's emotion had carried its own
Then, for a little, these two old friends stood and trembled and
glared at each other, Johnson Boller contemplating a swift and terrible
uppercut to Anthony's lean jaw, which should stretch him unconscious
perhaps for hoursAnthony meanwhile wondering superheatedly whether,
once his long fingers had wound about Johnson Boller's plump throat, he
could hold on until wretched life was extinct.
They were angry, terribly angry and almost for the first time in
their lives, and had they stood and glared for another fifteen seconds
it is possible that one or the other might have ended his days in Sing
Sing's electric chairbut as it happened Mary's voice came upon the
vibrating, pregnant air, clear and cool and full of warranted acerbity.
While all this talk of reputations is going on, said Mary, what
Anthony Fry's tension snapped. Johnson Boller, it seemed, was of no
mind to relinquish his rare fury so easily, for he stood with his fists
clenched and trembled a little even now and his color was no lighter
than scarlet; but Anthony turned and bowed almost humbly.
I beg your pardon, Miss Mary, he said bitterly.
Miss Mary! echoed Boller. You know her, hey?
She told me to call her Mary, Anthony said stiffly.
When? When you hired her for this job? Johnson Boller persisted,
although quite weakly.
When I discoverednot half an hour backthat she waserwhat
she is, Anthony said coldly. And let that be an end to your comments,
please. You saw me meet this young woman for the first time, as you
will know when you recover your senses. You know for what purpose and
under what misapprehension I brought her to this apartment. Don't make
a bad matter worse by injecting your personal brand of asininity.
He turned his back on Johnson Boller and walked away.
Johnson Boller, however, turned his whole attention to Mary, perched
on the arm of a chair, distressed enough but self-contained, pretty as
a picture. And slowly reason climbed upon her throne again in Johnson
Boller's brain, possessed though it was by Beatrice, loveliest of
He smiled suddenly, because Beatrice in far-off Montreal would never
know; he even grinned after a few seconds; and then, the enormity of
the joke on Anthony Fry overcoming him suddenly, Johnson Boller opened
his mouth and laughednot a mere, decent expression of mirth, but a
roar which suggested a wild bull in acute agony.
A Niagara of sound left Johnson Boller and ended in a deep, happy
wheezeand the torrent broke loose again and he hugged his fat sides
and rocked and roared again, until Wilkins, genuinely startled, entered
the living-room, and stopped, more genuinely startled, and regarded the
altered David with mouth wide open.
God bless my soul! Wilkins said frankly. What
Wilkins! Anthony snapped.
II beg pardon, sir! the faithful one choked. The young
The young lady, said his master, and his voice had the edge of a
razor blade, ishere by accident, Wilkins. She came here last night,
under a misapprehension, while masquerading as a boy. You will forget
immediately that I have told you this.
Very good, sir, Wilkins said; and being one of those rare, model
creatures we read about but rarely meet, he straightened up and forced
his tone back to the matter-of-fact mumble. As to breakfast, sir?
Anthony glanced at Mary.
Yes, I'm quite human, she said crisply. I eat breakfast.
For three, Wilkins, said Anthony.
And now, with Wilkins moving incessantly in and out, a peculiar,
almost silent constraint came upon them. Anthony, at the window gazed
at the distant street and tried his best to think; there was just one
awful thought that obtruded itself upon his mind and, although he
thrust it away again and again, the thought came back and mocked at
him. Mentally, he lashed at ityet ever and anon it returned and
mocked a little more and made impish faces at him.
Johnson Boller, recovering in a long, delighted series of wheezes,
merely ambled to a corner and gazed at Mary, who affected to read
unconcernedly. She was certainly pretty and watching a pretty girl had
never wearied Mr. Boller; but far beyond her prettiness was the
terrific joke on old Anthony.
This was Anthony who, year in and year out, avoided even social
gatherings where women predominated. This was Anthony, who abominated
the whole sex and could be goaded into actual rage by repeated
suggestions that one of his wealth and standing should marry! This was
Anthony, who had threatened to leave the Lasande that day, long ago,
when the pretty little woman canvasser had flitted past the office and
made her way to this very living-room.
Well, it was one on Anthony! Nay, it was a million on Anthony! From
this day forth, Johnson Boller reflected in the depths of his
perverted, amusement-loving mind, he had such a grip on Anthony Fry
that, should he order that distinguished citizen to walk down Fifth
Avenue with a lump of sugar on his nose, he would have no choice but
And how Anthony would writhe and how that austere countenance could
be colored with the blush of helpless anger! A quantity of the savage,
merciless little boy had survived in Johnson Boller and this wait for
breakfast was really one of the happiest periods of his life.
Wilkins, quite himself again, worked deftly. The service elevator
from the pantry, one of the Lasande's features, whined softly to the
Fry apartment and stopped, and presently, silently, Anthony motioned
them to the table.
Johnson Boller came shaking pleasantly, albeit with countenance
grave enough. Mary came daintily and thoughtfully. But Anthony Fry came
as one going to his doombecause the inescapable thought had fastened
in his brain and every new, terrible second held less hope than had the
Coffee was poured then and food served and Wilkins moved out.
Is he gone now? Mary asked quietly.
Yes, sighed Anthony.
Then, without wasting any more time, wouldn't it be as well to
decide just what we are going to do?
Anthony sighed bitterly.
Now that you have elected to change into a very charming young
woman, I have no idea of what we're going to do, if you mean by way of
getting you out unnoticed.
Mary's head went a little higher.
That's exactly what I mean, of course, said she. As for my
getting into my own clothes, what else was there to do? I couldn't wear
those ridiculous things you gave me; nothing in the world could have
tempted me to go on the street in them, even if I could have worn them.
I telephoned for Felice and had her bring my things because II wanted
to feel sane again, I think, and if she hadn't made such a wretched
disturbance, poor child, I'd have been into them and out of here long
And I, escaped Anthony, should have had to explain.
You're very precious of that good name of yours, aren't you? Mary
I have always been, said Anthony.
And then, all unaware that Mary's pretty lips had compressed and
that her eyes were flashing opinions which caused Johnson Boller fairly
to quake with glee, Anthony's head dropped lower and he stared at his
untouched plate. The thought was there stillthe awful, menacing
thing, coming nearer each instant, growing stronger and stronger.
It must be lovely to be such a thoroughly good and proper man,
Mary said sweetly. Couldn't you possibly forget yourself for a moment
and tell me how you plan to get me out of here? Couldn't you spend just
five minutes trying to think just what I'm going to tell my people?
Eh? gasped Anthony.
Oh, yes, I have peoplea mother and a father and then some more,
Mary informed him. Nice people, almost as proper in their notions as
Anthony merely stared at her numbly. Unconsciously, perhaps, she had
driven the last, long nail into his coffin. Her people! Momentarily, he
had forgotten that she might have people and might have to explain to
them just where last night had been passed. But now that she mentioned
a father, it seemed to Anthony that he could see a mighty man, a man of
wrath and muscle and perhaps a man who could slay with one blow
andoh, there was no other way!
All his life, Anthony had shied from woman. All these last
twenty-five years he had thanked his lucky stars that one of them had
never snared him! He had been alone, to live as he pleased and act as
he pleased and think as he pleased; married men do not do that, as
witness Johnson Boller, ensnared by Beatrice, a decent enough young
woman but his ruler.
Yes, up to the age of forty-five he had been alone and contented,
year in and year out, indulging every little foible without a soul to
question, going as he liked and coming as he liked.
But that was over now! That was over and done with, forever! Anthony
Fry, with a tiny groan, looked up from his plate and faced Mary.
Young woman, said he deeply, solemnly enough to cause Johnson
Boller to stop quaking and take to staring, I have avoided women all
Yes? Mary said.
I have done so, Anthony went on steadily, marching to the gallows
as a brave man should, with never a falter once he was started,
because to mypossibly eccentricmind, matrimony has no attractions.
The bachelor state, I fondly imagined, was to be my chosen state until
Mary looked him over rather too critically, examining the wrinkles
at the corners of his eyes and considering the extreme width of his
That was a good enough idea, she said heartily. What has it to do
with getting me out of here?
It has a great deal to do with it, as you will see, Anthony said,
with a great, quivering sigh. For the fact of your presence I alone
will take the blame.
Thanks, said Mary.
And since the blame is mine, I will make what amends I can,
Anthony Fry concluded, and nerved though he was, his voice broke. I
will consent to marry you!
Huh? cried John Boller.
Mary, for the moment, said nothing at all. The intake of her breath
was audible, though, and her color rosenot in embarrassment, plainly
in anger. Mary's eyes snapped, too, and she leaned a little toward him
questioningly, as if incredulous of her own hearing.
You'll do what? said Mary.
I will consent to marry you! Anthony repeated, and it seemed to
him that his voice was coming hollowly and from a great distance,
presumably from the caverns of a matrimony-infested Hades. It will be
simplepainfully simple. The ceremony can be performed this morning
and in New Jersey. We will leave at once and without notifying either
your friends or mine, on an extended wedding tourI should say of six
months' duration at the least, Anthony went on brokenly, while Johnson
Boller gazed at him in pure fascination. In a week or so we can write
everywhere, giving the impression that it has been an elopement, the
ceremony having been performed yesterday. Then
Stop! Mary cried. Stop thatthat planning!
The girl was sitting bolt upright, eyes snapping, and Anthony
regarded her in astonishment. Also, she thumped the table with her
small clenched fist as she looked straight at him and gasped:
Why, II wouldn't marry you if you were ten times the last man in
No! Mary said quite wildly.
There is not another thing to do, Anthony informed her, with a
forlorn, heart-broken smile. Your good name
You'll find some other way of preserving my good name! Mary said
warmly. I'm engaged now to the very finest man in the whole world!
You're engaged! Anthony cried intelligently.
Yes, and he's a sane man, too, and he doesn't cry over the prospect
of marrying me! the young woman hurtled on. He's a real man,
and if he ever finds out that you made me stay here all last night,
he'll ignore the circumstances and shoot you just as sure as you're
She stopped, breathing hard, and shook her head at Anthony Fry, so
that the red-gold curls tumbled about quite riotously. Anthony,
blinking, said nothing at all, but his friend Johnson Boller took to
muttering, rather like a perturbed hen.
As a matter of fact, Boller was downright fond of Anthony, and the
prospect of having him slain in cold blood was very distressing.
Turning helpful for the first time, Johnson Boller was on the point of
trying to think up ways and means of getting Mary outbut Mary herself
was speaking again.
And don't think that that ridiculous proposal lifts any
responsibility from your shoulders, either! she said, energetically.
I had not meant to imply that it did, Anthony said dully.
You got me here and you've kept me here, said Mary, and it was
plain that her even temper had not yet returned. You'll have to devise
the way to get me out of here and what to say when I do get home.
Yes, murmured Anthony.
And if it will help any in rousing you out of that apathetic
state, the girl concluded, you may as well know that there isn't the
slightest doubt in the world that the police have a general alarm for
me long before this!
Wow! said Johnson Boller.
I amtrying to think! Anthony said with difficulty.
So far as posture went, he looked it. His lean hands were gripping
the edges of the table nervously, and his head was bent again; he
scowled and then shook his head as if to dispel the scowl. He cleared
his throat repeatedly; he glanced at Johnson Boller, whose expression
was divided between irrepressible amusement and some concernand he
cleared his throat once more and stared his fried egg fixedly in its
Thus he was sitting after five silent minutes, which both Mary and
Boller had improved gastronomically, when Wilkins entered.
Beg pardon, Mr. Fry, said he. A gentleman to see you.
I can't see him, Anthony said quickly.
But this gentleman's on his way up now, sir, he said. He's one of
your friends, and the office allowed him to come up and merely 'phoned
that he was coming. It is Mr. Robert Vining, sir!
Anthony shook his head.
Well, I cannot see even Mr. Vining this morning, he said. Say,
when he comes to the door, thatgood gracious!
This last being quite justified, because Mary, with one small
shriek, had bounded from her chair like a frightened fawn! The chair,
toppling over, bumped about the floor for a bit until Wilkins caught
it, and Mary, both hands clutched upon her bosom, stood poised for a
full second, eyes round and horrified, lips parted.
Then, as the lightning flashes, Mary had turned, and it seemed that
she floated through the air to the corridor and into the corridor and
down the corridor. In rather less than another second the door of the
recent David's chamber closed with a slam.
At the door the buzzer was buzzing.
Will you see him, sir? asked Wilkins.
What? Yes, said Anthony. Take away that chair and that extra
plate before you open the door.
Johnson Boller stood with lips pursed gravely until Wilkins was
Are you going to let himerknow?
Hardly, said Anthony. AlthoughI don't know. Bob's level-headed
and resourceful and reliable. Do you suppose it would be possible
toask his aid?
Think of the girl! said Johnson Boller. Think what
He stopped, for Mr. Robert Vining was with thema tall,
broad-shouldered, person of a year or so past thirty, bright and steady
of eye, and with the flush of health upon his carefully shaven cheek.
He entered like the muscular paragon he was, lithely and easily as a
tiger; and it seemed to Anthony that, if he did nothing else, fifteen
minutes of his conversation might serve to restore normal thought.
Robert Vining was all of the pleasant every day that had been before
their visit to the fight, and the very sight of him was stimulating.
So he clasped Vining's hand and said heartily:
Good morning, Bob! You've breakfasted?
Long since, grinned young Mr. Vining. Iwho uses perfume around
No one, Anthony said, paling slightly. Possibly
Vining's eyes twinkled.
Guess I imagined it, he said. There's a reason! Well, it's early,
but I thought I'd drop in for a moment in passing and see what you
thought of the alleged battle last night. Hello, Johnson! Heard you
were here. Did you go, too?
Yep, said Johnson Boller, gazing at his old friend and wondering
whether Anthony thought he was looking and acting like himself.
It was one grand lemon, Anthony, was it not? asked Mr. Vining,
sprawling comfortably for a stay and pinching the end of his cigarette.
Anthony himself settled down in his pet chair for a normal
It was all of that, he agreed almost cheerfully. I've seen the
so-called Kid in pretty bad form before; he was a howling outrage when
he fought Morr two years ago, but last night
His voiced trailed away oddly and for cause. Wilkins, coming from
nowhere in particular, was standing in the corridor. He looked straight
at his master and with great meaning, and having caught his attention
he rolled his eyes toward David's room and nodded slightly. Again he
looked at Anthony, again he nodded; and Anthony rose abruptly.
Youexcuse me for a moment, Bob? he asked, in the same low, husky
voice that had afflicted him before this morning. WilkinsahWilkins
He hurried across the room and followed Wilkins as he backed into
the shadows of the corridor.
She wishes to see you, sir, the invaluable one whispered. She
rang for me and she says it's urgent.
I'd go at once, sir! Wilkins breathed fervently. I really would,
Mr. Fry. She seems in a bit of a temper, if I may say so.
Anthony passed him without further comment or protest, and hastened
to David's door. Apprehension filled him suddenly, not so much because
there was any reason for apprehension as because he was nervous. Anger
went up, too, that the wretched girl should have upset the first calm
and peaceful moment of the morning, so that it is quite possible that
Anthony failed to smile as he entered the chamber.
For that matter, Mary was not smiling either. She stood at the foot
of the bed, clinging to it, and her bosom heaved and her eyes bored
into Anthony Fry.
Thatthat man! she whispered quite dramatically.
He is merely an old friend of mine, Miss Mary, Anthony said
impatiently. I have no idea of mentioning your existence, far less
Did your man say Robert Vining?
Is that the Robert Vining of Vining & Dale, lawyers, in Wall
Street? Mary cried softly.
Of course, said Anthony. It isn't possible that you know him?
Know him? Mary echoed wildly. That's the man I'm going to
CHAPTER IX. Crime?
Entering, the Owner of Fry's Imperial Liniment had been justifiably
annoyed. Twenty seconds after entering, Mary's obvious excitement had
caused the annoyance to give place to not very interested wonder; but
now Mary had claimed all his attention and the annoyance was all gone.
Indeed, as a quantity to claim one's whole attention Mary had been a
success from the very beginning.
Anthony Fry, then, scowled flitting incredulity at her; and the
absurdity of being incredulous of one who panted and shook as did Mary
becoming at once apparent, Anthony paled somewhat.
I cannotbelieve that such an astonishing coincidence he
What you believe or don't believe doesn't interest me! Mary said
swiftly. Did I hear him talking about that wretched fight last night?
He was there?
Well, it's the same Robert Vining! Mary whispered. Get him out of
Don't argue about it! Get him out of here! said Mary. Do you
suppose I want him to come wandering down this way and find me?
He will not do that, because
How do you know whether he will or not? Mary demanded hotly. Why
did he have to come here? It's all his faultthe whole thing's his
fault! If he hadn't refused to take me to that beastly old fight and
made such a time about it, I'd never have made up my mind to go,
So that's what happened? Anthony muttered.
That is what happened. Now get him out of here! Mary directed.
And do it quickly!
After all, the unlucky little coincidence was not nearly so serious
as she seemed to think. Anthony smiled quite calmly.
He will not stay very long, said he, and when he is ready to go I
will not detain him, of course. But I can't very well go in and order
him out, you know.
Mary, bosom heaving still, looked straight at him with burning eyes.
Mr. Fry, she said solemnly, I've always lived too much out doors
and boxed and shot and paddled and ridden too much to be given to
hysterics. The only time I ever had hysterics was the night they
thought dad had been killedbut that night, once I started, the
neighbors came out on the street two blocks away to see what was the
I don't understand?
You will, Mary said, controlling herself with visible difficulty.
You've made me stand enough since last night, and there are some
things I cannotsome things I will not even try to stand! I tell you
honestly that if Bob isn't out of this flat in two minutes, I'm going
into a fit of hysterics that will have the reserves piling into this
sanctified hotel just as surely as the sun is shining!
Miss Mary faltered Anthony Fry.
Mary's hands clenched in the most peculiar manner.
Hadn't you better make the best of those two minutes? she asked
His quiet smile was gone now; lines appeared in Anthony's
countenance as he looked at herand then, wasting no further time in
aimless comment, he turned and tottered into the corridor. Mary meant
just what she said.
Robert Vining and Johnson Boller were sprawling in the deep chairs,
opposite one another, smoking comfortably and giving every evidence of
having settled down for a considerable session. Young Mr. Vining
grinned through the smoke at his older friend.
Sit down, Anthony, said he. We're just going over the thing round
by round, to see if either of us can remember a worse fight for the
money. We're working on round two, just now.
Anthony smiled strangely and laid a dramatic hand upon his brow.
I will not join the discussion, he said.
Eh? What's the matter? Robert asked, sitting up.
Headache! One of theerheadaches that make my life a burden!
I never knew you had 'em, young Vining said with a mystified
Neither did I, Johnson Boller contributed healthfully.
Did you have it before you talked to Wilkins, there? pursued
Robert, who owned a really keen mind.
Erit was just coming on.
No bad news, old chap? Vining said, crossing his legs the other
Anthony shook his head and smiled again, indicating suffering that
was not all simulated.
No, just theerheadache, he said. Comes on suddenly, you know,
and settled in the back of my head and neck. There is only one thing
that can be done for it and that is a steady massage. Perhaps you'd do
that for me, Johnson?
Sure, said Johnson Boller, whose eyes shot two questions to the
second. Sit down and we can go on talking while I rub.
Well, I have to lie down for this, Anthony explained. On the bed,
you know, and it'swell, it is likely to take an hour or more. You
wouldn't care to wait around, Bob?
Mr. Vining gazed steadily at him. No refined intuition was necessary
to tell Anthony that it was not his morning for tactful dismissals.
This effort, evidently, had carried the delicate touch of a blow from a
baseball bat, for Robert, flushing slightly, spoke with unpleasant
No, I couldn't wait, I'm sure. And while I don't understand it, of
course, I'm sure I'm sorry to have intruded. Good-by.
Youhaven't intruded, Anthony cried. Only
Well, don't bother explaining, said young Mr. Vining. I beg your
pardon for breaking in andgood morning.
Wherewith he stalked out to the corridor, removed his hat from the
rack without the assistance of Wilkins and, opening the door himself,
closed it after him with a careful lack of force that was more
expressive than any slam.
Gone off mad! Johnson Boller said.
I can't help it! Anthony said miserably.
Nice chap, too! Too bad to offend him that way, Mr. Boller pursued
meditatively. Friends are few and far between in this sad old world,
Anthony, and a queer dick like yourich or poorhas trouble hanging
on to the few he makes. Oh, I don't mean to be nasty, you know; I'm
just telling you. Well, come and have your head rubbed.
Anthony collapsed into his chair.
There's nothing wrong with my head, he said. That was the first
lie I could think of, Johnson, to get him out of here. He had to go!
She said so, Anthony informed him, with a ghastly little smile.
She's engaged to him!
To Bob Vining?
Johnson Boller whistled softly and, elevating his eyebrows, thrust
his hands into his trousers pockets and looked at Anthony with new
Too bad, that! said he. Too bad for you that it should have been
a chap of the Vining type.
What does that mean?
Well, sooner or later, he may find out. The chances are that he
will find out just what you've done to that girl, Boller went on
contemplatively. It's just about as she says, too. If he was a fool,
you could fool him, one way or another. Or if he was a little snide,
Anthony, you could talk him off or bribe him offbut it'll never be
like that with Bob. He'll never take any account of the circumstances;
he'll just snatch out the gun and let fly!
Rot! Anthony said thinly.
Johnson Boller's face grew grave and more grave. He sighed and
looked over Anthony's head for a little and then, reaching a decision,
he looked at him suddenly.
Old chap, he said kindly.
I don't want to worry you, but perhaps it is better for you to
knownow. And I wish you wouldn't mention it, because Bob told me
once, two years ago, and showed it to me in a sort of burst of
Showed you what?
Down at the base of his thumb, Bob Vining's got the murderer's
cross! Johnson Boller said huskily.
Nonsense! Anthony said sharply.
It's a fact! The little mark is there, clear as if it had been
drawn in with a knife! said Mr. Boller. And for another factI don't
know whether you know this or not, but virtually every murderer who has
been executed in the last twenty years in this State, has shown that
cross in some form and
He stayed the pleasant flow abruptly. From the direction of David's
doorway a rustle was coming, very softly and cautiously, yet quite
distinctly. It paused in the corridor while Mary drew aside a corner of
the curtain and looked inand then Mary was with them and asking:
Is he gone?
Yes, Anthony sighed.
Was he excited while he was here?
Not at all, apparently.
Then he doesn't know yet that I've disappeared, Mary said calmly,
returning to her place at the cleared table. Isn't he a darling?
He isa very charming fellow, Anthony muttered, thinking of the
Did your man take my coffee away? Mary pursued.
Silently, Anthony rang for his servitor. Silently, Wilkins brought
back pot and cup and the little plate of toast; and Mary, a very
pleasing little figure indeed, sipped and munched and asked:
Well, have you determined how I'm to leave?
Anthony merely stared moodily at her at first. Johnson Boller,
though, found his sense of humor overcoming him again. He gazed at
Anthony, hair rumpled, eyes fogged with anxiety such as he rarely knew,
and presently Johnson Boller was vibrating again. One merry little
wheeze escaped and earned a glare from Anthony, another followed
itand after that Johnson Boller sat back and haw-hawed frankly until
So far, I have been thinking of the ways in which you cannot
leave, he admitted tartly. If you'd consent to try my clothes
Umum, said Mary, shaking her head. No, no!
Then frankly, I don't know what to suggest, said the master of the
apartment. You are not invisible. You cannot walk through the office
without being seen, Miss Maryand once you have done that be sure that
your face will be registered in the memory of the employees. You have
no idea of moving from New York, I take it?
Then since you will be about town for years, may I point out that
each man who sees you will remember, also for years, that you left one
of these apartments and
He paused, partly in distress and partly because it seemed to him
that Wilkins was whispering to somebody. He sat up then, because
Wilkins was talking and there was another voice he could not at
first place. He had heard it before, many times, and it was very calm,
very clear, very determined; and now Wilkins' tone came distinctly and
Well, of course, if he's expecting you, sir
The door closed. Steps approached the living-room. And with Mary
sitting at the table, coffee-cup in hand, furnishing just the homelike
touch a bachelor apartment must normally lack, Hobart Hitchin was with
One glance settled the fact that the amateur detective had attained
a high state of nervous tension. Behind his spectacles, the keen eyes
flashed about like a pair of illuminated steel points; his face seemed
tired, but the rest of him was as alive as a steel spring, and his
right hand held a fat brief-case.
Had he been more intimately acquainted with Hobart Hitchin, Anthony
Fry would have trembled. As it was, he felt merely keen annoyanceand
then utter consternation, because Hitchin had stopped with a jerk and
was looking straight at Mary.
Ierdidn't know, he said.
Poor little Mary, be she who she might, was in a decidedly ticklish
position, however perfectly her outward calm was preserved. Everything
that was chivalrous in Anthony surged up and told him to protect her;
and coming out of the nowhere at the very last second, merciful
inspiration reached his brain and he stared so fixedly, so warningly at
Johnson Boller that that gentleman's chronic quiver ceased.
OnlyahMrs. Boller! Anthony said quietly. My dear Mrs.
BollerMr. Hitchin, one of our neighbors here.
Johnson Boller himself started out of his chair, gripping its arms;
and then, the general sense penetrating his cranium, dropped back with
a puff. His mouth opened, as if to protest; his eye caught the eye of
Anthony Fry. With a gasp and a flush, Mr. Johnson Boller subsided for
the time, and Anthony was saying suavely:
Mr. and Mrs. Boller were with me overnight, you knowdecorators
have captured their place and they were good enough to take the edge
off my loneliness for a little.
I never knew you minded it; I've heard you say you liked it,
Hobart Hitchin smiled as he took Mary's hand and favored her with his
drill-point stare. But when you are alone again I'm quite sure that
you'll know how lonely you are! My dear Mrs. Boller, I am honored!
Mary, after one startled and one thankful glance at Anthony, dimpled
charmingly. Mr. Hitchin dropped her hand and ceased his inspection, and
immediately he turned more tensely solemn than upon his entrance.
AhFry, said he. I suppose we can have a few minutes' chat?
An hour if you like, Anthony smiled, quite happily, too, because
he was rather proud of his quick-wittedness.
Hobart Hitchin gazed straight at Mary.
And Mr. Boller will remain with us?
What's the mystery? Johnson Boller asked.
There is not, I fear, much mystery, Hitchin said, looking straight
at Anthony. But there is a little matter I'd like to discuss
witheryou two gentlemen.
Mary rose hastily.
I'd better go? she smiled.
If it would not inconvenience you, dear lady, Hitchin said
unsmilingly and with a stiff bow.
Chin squared, he stood in silence until she had vanished down the
corridor. He crossed the room and listened intently, dramatically; he
held up the curtains and looked for the sliding doors which had been
taken out five years before.
No way of shutting up this room, Fry? he asked crisply.
No need of shutting it up, either, said Anthony. There is no one
to listen. What seems to be the trouble, Hitchin?
Hitchin wheeled suddenly and turned his remarkable eyes upon
You don't know, eh? he shot at him.
I'm sure I do not.
And whether he does or not, what do you think you're doing?
Johnson Boller asked impatiently. Acting a moving picture or
Mr. Boller, may I trouble you to keep out of this for a little?
the crime student asked amazingly. Later on I may wish to ask you a
question or two, and if you will answer them it will serve me andMr.
Fry. Just now, suppose we draw up around the table here, so that it
will not be necessary to shout?
Anthony was there already, scowling. Johnson Boller, with a grunt,
shuffled over and took a chair; because this Hitchin creature, on the
face of him, was the morning's latest full-blown freak, and Johnson
Boller did not wish to miss anything.
Also, if the chance came, he meant to inform Hitchin that Mary was
not Mrs. Boller at all, if it could be contrived without casting too
much of a slur on Maryalthough that could wait until they learned the
cause of Hitchin's pale cheek and his keen, excited eye.
Hitchin, however, had relaxed in the most curious fashion; he was
smiling whimsically at Anthony now and, although his eye was across the
room, one felt that it could turn with one one-thousandth of a second's
warning and peer through Anthony's soul.
Fry, he said thoughtfully, I have been interested in crime for a
good many years. I have, as it were, dabbled in it partly for the love
of the thing and partly because, on one occasion or another, it has
been possible for me to extend help that would not otherwise have been
That's a mysterious statement, Anthony said.
Crimesome of itis mysterious, smiled Mr. Hitchin. Motives are
usually more mysterious. Mistaken motivesmotives formed under
misapprehensionare most mysterious of all. But the consequences of
crime, said Mr. Hitchin, whirling suddenly on Anthony, are
inevitable, inescapable as the rising of the sun.
Johnson Boller shook his head. The man had always been queer; now,
overnight, he, too, had gone crazy! Anthony, who was largely nerves
this morning, asked:
What the devil are you talking about, anyway? I'm not trying to be
unpleasant, Hitchin, but I'm not myself this morning and this rambling
discourse about crime is rather trying.
You are not yourself this morning? Hitchin repeated slowly, with a
very keen smile at Anthony.
Why are you not yourself this morning, Fry?
What? Because I lost some sleep last night, I suppose.
Ah! Hitchin cried softly. And why did you lose some sleep last
Anthony's patience snapped.
See here, Hitchin! he cried. I like to be polite and hospitable
as possible, but why on earth I should sit here and answer your
ridiculous questions I cannot see.
Hobart Hitchin laughed, a low, rippling, sinister laugh that chilled
the hearer without giving a clue to the reason for the chill.
Shall I show you why it were better for you to answer, Fry? he
Oh, but I'd better, insisted the crime student. Fry, let us go
back a few hours. You returned home last night about midnight, I
thinkfifteen or twenty minutes before the hour?
There was with you a young man named David Prentiss?
Then here is the reason for my questions! cried Hobart Hitchin,
and his whole personality seemed aflame. Anthony Fry, where is
CHAPTER X. The Web
Just the manner of the man startled Anthony and caused him to hitch
back in his chair and stare for an instant. Johnson Boller was not so
Say, what's the matter with you, Hitchin? he asked. Are you a
Hitchin snapped his fingers at him angrily and continued his stare
at Anthony Fry.
Well? he said tensely.
Well, upon my soul, Hitchin! Anthony stammered. I believe
Oh, no, you don't, Hobart Hitchin said quietly. You know a great
deal better and Boller knows a great deal better, but he has a good
deal more self-control than you have. Fry, where is David Prentiss?
Gone home, of course! Anthony snapped.
When did he go?
What? Last night!
And can you give me an idea of the hour?
Ohhalf-past twelve, perhaps.
At half-past twelve last night, David Prentiss left this apartment.
He went down in the elevator?
I suppose so.
Andjust be patient, Fry. Hitchin smiled disarmingly. Did the
young man wear from this apartment the clothes he wore into this
It was perfectly apparent to Anthony that the wretched fool had
taken what he fancied to be a scent of some sort; it was equally clear
that, in his present state of mind, Anthony would answer perhaps three
more questions and then, losing himself completely, would smash the
flower-vase over Hobart Hitchin's shining bald head solely as salve for
Doubtless the long coat and the down-pulled cap had started him
offthey were sufficiently mysterious-looking to impress a less
sensitive imagination than Hitchin's. Whatever troubled the crime
specialist, David Prentiss would have to be lied out of here in detail,
lied home and lied to bed.
Hitchin, said Anthony, Heaven alone knows what concern of yours
it can be, but the Prentiss boythe son of an old friend of mine who
has seen better dayscame back here with me last night for some
things, cast-offs, I had promised his unfortunate father. We met him on
the street on the way home.
Just around the corner, supplied Johnson Boller, who was growing
steadily more anxious to speak his mind to Anthony about the Mrs.
And having come upstairs with us and having selected the things he
thought his father would like best, Anthony went on, they were
wrapped in a bundle or ordinary brown paper, tied up with ordinary,
non-mysterious, crime-proof string and carried out by David, who, I
have no doubt at all, reached home within half an hour, gave the
clothes to his father, said his prayers and went to bed without further
ado. If there is anything else you'd like to know, ask!
Hobart Hitchin had not blinked. Now he smiled strangely and shrugged
At least, said he, you have perfected the story, haven't you?
And now, Mr. Hitchin broke in incisively, let us consider the
facts! We will take them, one by one, and I beg that you will listen.
Item one: I sat in the lobby downstairs until seventeen minutes of one
o'clock this morning, Fry. No David Prentiss passed me, going out.
Nobody left this hotel with a bundle or a bag!
You didn't see him, Anthony said.
Because he was not there! Listen, please, and do not interrupt,
Fry. I like you, or I should not be here. I wish to help you, if such a
thing is possible, or I should have gone at once to the police, said
the remarkable Mr. Hitchin. You, like many a man before you, forget
perfectly plain details. In this case, you have forgotten that my
apartment is directly beneath yoursthat the elevators here have
latticed gates, so that one can see from any floor whoever may be
passing in one of the carsthat sound travels perfectly in this
building when the street is quiet, as at night. So to get to item two.
About two o'clock this morning there was the sound of a heavy fall in
this very room!
Johnson Boller was grasping the trend more rapidly than was Anthony,
and he was growing less comfortable.
I fell! he said.
Did you really? asked the demon detective. Yetyou're in that
room, I take it? Yet you got out of bed immediately after and walked in
here; I heard your step. Don't flush, Boller! It takes practice to
carry out a thing of this kind and whatever the motive may have been,
you gentlemen are not old hands. And so to item three: it must have
been about four when a policeman came to this door. Why?
There was supposed to be a burglar here. It was a false alarm,
Anthony said, less collectedly.
Hitchin lighted the pipe he had filled and smiled.
That is the tale they tell in the office, he said. I confess that
that detail puzzles me and as yet I haven't had time to get inside
information from my good friend our police captain. However, we can
well call this detail immaterial and pass to item four.
He gazed into the blue cloud of smoke and smiled again.
The woman in the case! he said in a deep, bass voice.
There was no woman! Anthony exploded. And
The Frenchwoman, Fry! Hitchin corrected.
Don't explain her, said Hobart Hitchin. Let us see just what
happened when she was about. She came after daylight. She passed
through the office downstairs so suddenly that nobody was able to stop
her, and she knew where to come. She was in the elevator naming her
floor to the manwho supposed her to have been passed by the
officeperhaps two seconds after she entered the house itself. She
came directly to this apartment, Fry, and almost immediately she burst
into hysterical weeping!
His eyes were boring again and Hobart Hitchin also pointed the stem
of his pipe accusingly at Anthony.
Fry, he said, what did that girl see, evidently at the end
of the corridor, which produced that outburst of grief?
Nothing, Anthony said thickly.
There was nothing to cause her acute grief?
Wait! She wept all the way down in the elevator; I saw her myself!
She wept so violently when she reached the street that an officer
approached herand she fled from him and disappeared.
It was high time to say something and to say it well. Dignity had
always served Anthony, and while it was an effort he eyed Hobart
Hitchin, said he, it would be quite possible, believe me, to
soothe your feverish mind by telling you the perfectly simple errand on
which that girl came, but I'm damned if I'll do it! Some things are too
ridiculous, and you're one of them. If there are any further questions
you wish to ask about my personal affairs, will you please leave them
unasked? And if there are other things over which you wish to rave,
don't let me detain you here.
He fastened his best majestic gaze on Hobart Hitchin, yet Hitchin
only laughed his low, sinister laugh.
You're a curious customer, Fry, he said, leaning back comfortably.
I had hoped before this that your nerve would have broken
andhowever, listen to this little theory of mine. The boy knew
something, I can't say what, about you, something which had to
be suppressed at any cost. You brought him here, I can't say on what
pretext, but the boy fancied that all was well. Perhaps you promised
him money; I'm inclined to believe that, for the girl came, evidently
by appointment, ready to travel. Doesn't take much deduction to guess
that they were going to be married with the money you gave him, does
it? She came and she saw what happened, and then
Well, what had happened? Anthony almost shouted.
That's what I'm waiting for you to tell me, so that I can give you
a helping hand, said the crime student. And while I'm waiting, and
while you're still plainly convinced that I know nothing at all, let me
ask you one question again: did the Prentiss boy leave here with the
clothes he wore when he entered?
Yes! Anthony said wearily.
With a sudden startling slap, the fat brief-case was placed upon the
table and its straps undone. And there was another slap and Hobart
Then explain these, Fry! Explain these!
There can be no denying that Anthony's mouth opened and that his
eyes grew rounder. Before him, spread upon the table, lay David's
Well, thosethose he stammered. Where did you get them?
From the dumbwaiter, where you placed them so very quietly, so very
cautiously, so very early this morning! said Hobart Hitchin, with his
devilish laugh. You even went so far as to run the thing down, so that
it would be emptied at once, didn't you? But you didn't happen
to look down! You didn't see me take the whole suit from the dumbwaiter
as it passed my door.
He leaned back triumphantly and puffed his pipe and for a little
there was a thick tangible silence in Anthony's living-room.
More than once, like most of us, Johnson Boller had wondered just
what he would do if accused of a murder of which he was entirely
innocent. In a fond and confident way he had pictured himself sneering
at the captain of police, impressing him despite himself as Johnson
Boller not only established his alibi in a few crisp sentences, but
also directed the stupid detective force toward the true criminal.
At present, however, he discovered that he was downright scared.
Unless one of them rose up and told about Mary and then called her in
to verify the truth, it seemed that Hobart Hitchin, idiot though he
might be, had established something of a case. And instead of sneering,
Johnson Boller grew redder and redder, until Hitchin said:
Ah, you know all about it, eh? I had wondered!
Well, cut out your wondering! Johnson Boller said roughly.
I wouldn't talk now, if I were you, said Hitchin, kindly enough.
I'm devoting myself to Fry. Well, Fry?
As yet Anthony had not found the proper line of speech.
The boy, a stranger, comes here at midnight, Hitchin purred
relentlessly. There is a heavy fall at two. There is weeping before
seven, the weeping of a strange woman. There are the boy's clothesthe
rest of them are downstairs. So, once morewhere is David Prentiss
He waited, and Anthony Fry drew a long breath. All his life he had
been painfully addicted to the truth; it was part of his cherished and
spotless reputation. All his life he had shunned fiction, and was
therefore ignorant of plot technique. So he did fairly well in smiling
sourly and saying, calmly enough:
So far as I know, David is about starting for his work, Hitchin.
The thing had slipped my mind altogether, but I remember now that the
boy took a suita blue suitfor himself and changed into it while
here. That outfit was decidedly shabby. After that he left, and as to
the French girl, you may theorize and be hanged, for she happens to be
none of your infernal business, and she has no connection with David.
Mr. Hitchin grinned without humor and examined the trousers in
silence, thinking, and later humming to himself. He smoothed them out
and then folded them carefully, finally replacing them in his brief
case. After that he looked at Anthony.
If I were you, Fry, I should tell the truth, and let me help you.
You know, and I know, that the boy never left this apartment. Well?
Well? snapped Anthony.
And you know and I know that what remains of him is still here,
Are you accusing me of murder? Anthony demanded savagely.
I have been doing that for some time.
Hitchin, you're the most utter ass that ever breathed! You
Doubtless, but at the same time murder is murder, and murder will
out, Fry! the extraordinary crime student said steadily, as he arose,
Now hear me quietly. I shall do nothingyou understand, nothing
until afternoon, unless circumstances render action imperative. You
know where we stand; I know where we stand. I want to help you, to come
to the unfortunate end quietly if nothing else. I shall be in my
apartment all morning. Think it over. Talk it over with Boller. Then,
when you have decided that you need help, come and see me. He took up
his case and faced Anthony squarely. At least I can see that you
obtain a privilege or two in the local prison, he concluded.
Good Lord! breathed Anthony Fry.
And in going, said Hobart Hitchin, let me leave just one caution
behind me, Fry. Have nothing shipped from this apartment until we have
Then Mr. Hitchin, courageously turning his back upon the pair, moved
out of the flat, leaving Johnson Boller and his oldest friend in a
state of partial paralysis. Anthony recovered in perhaps three seconds.
Thatthat infernal idiot! said Anthony. Why, the lunatic asylums
have saner people in strait-jackets!
Maybe they have, Johnson Boller said hoarsely, but all the same,
many a good man has sat in the electric chair on the strength of
circumstantial evidence not nearly so good as he made out!
Well, are you afraid of sitting there? Anthony snapped.
Johnson Boller mopped his brow.
Maybe not, he said. But with the things he's pieced together he
can go to the police and have 'em around here in ten minutes! That
son-of-a-gun can have you and me locked up without bail, andthat'd
be nice, huh?
He can do nothing of the sort!
He can unless you show him a David Prentiss! Mr. Boller urged. He
can unless we have the girl out and tell him the truth and have her
corroborate it! Are you going to do that?
Anthony Fry hugged his head for an instant; it was really aching
No! he said.
It's better than being jugged, Anthony, suggested Johnson Boller.
You know, I've got some reputation as well as you, andsay, what did
you mean by introducing her as my wife?
Was there anything else to do?
Why not as your sister?
Because Hitchin knows perfectly well that I haven't a sister, of
course. Don't fume and thresh around like that, Johnson; it bothers
But if my wife ever hears of it
She never will, said Anthony, without great concern, unless you
have Hitchin for dinner some night and ask him to tell about it.
And Wilkinshe heard it, too!
Well, I shall instruct Wilkins not to mention it, later on,
Anthony sighed. Now quiet down, will you, and let us think how
Have you decided how to get me out of here? Mary asked brightly,
entering without a sound.
Anthony stayed the bitter words that were in his very throat.
We have been accused of murdering David Prentiss! he said.
Very really indeed!
Isn't that funny? Mary laughed. Isn't it perfectly ridiculous?
It's a scream! said Johnson Boller. About the time we both get
pinched it may be up to you to
Tell the truth? Mary said quickly.
I'll never do it! the girl cried passionately. No! Not even to
save both of you! I'm not here through any fault of my own,
andandwhy, a man who could suggest such a thing
He's not suggesting it; he's just excited, Anthony said miserably,
Now, suppose we try, just once more, to sit down sanely and devise the
way of getting you safely home, Miss Mary?
And soon! said the girl, somewhat feverishly. If I could have
gotten home while it was dark Felice could have smuggled me in andand
lied about it, if necessary. But it isn't night any longer; it's nine
o'clock or past nine, and
She said no more. Lips parted, and eyes, all in an instant,
thoroughly horrified, she stood and listened; and from the door of
Anthony's apartment a thumping sounded once more and a voice said:
Hurry up! Open that door!
Robert again! Mary gasped.
Is that possible? Anthony gasped, bouncing to his feet.
It was not only possible. It was the solid fact, for Wilkins,
muttering as he fumbled at the latch, was mentioning Mr. Vining's name
and bidding him be patient for an instantand Mary, with a little
scream, had made another of her projectile disappearances down the
corridorand into the room came Robert Vining!
He was far from being the same collected young man. His whole person
seemed to have been towsled by some overwhelming excitement. His eyes
belonged in the head of a madman, and his hands waved irresponsibly as
he rushed at Anthony Fry and clutched his coat and panted:
Fry! You'll have to help me!
You know more people than Iyou know people everywhere, Anthony!
You'll have to help me by calling them up and having them call up their
friends, you know. Thatthat may do some good. II don't know! I
don't know what I'm talking about, Anthony! I feel as if I'd gone
You act very much that way, Anthony said quietly. What's wrong?
Robert Vining gaped at him and then laughed quite insanely.
Wrong! he shouted. Wrong! Mary's disappeared!
You don't know Maryno, of course not! young Mr. Vining rushed
on. Sheshe's the girl I'm going to marry, Anthony! Yes, I'm engaged,
although it hasn't been announced yet. I've been engaged for a week
now, and wegreat Heaven! I can't think. Iwhy, Anthony, I was
talking to her even at dinner last night and there was never a hint
that she even meant to go out of the house. In fact, when we parted,
she seemed rather bored at the idea of staying home andwhy, not a
soul knows even when she left the house! She's gone, Fry! She's just
A coarse nature ever, Johnson Boller winked at Anthony and turned
Mary! Why, my little Mary out alone at night young Robert
choked. She's just twenty, Anthonya delicate, beautiful girl like
that disappearing from the most beautiful, the happiest home in all New
York! Why, from the day she was born, Dalton never spared her a penny
Eh? What Dalton? Anthony asked suddenly.
What? Theodore Dalton, of course. He's her fatherDalton, the
patent-medicine man, Anthony. You must have met him? You know Theodore
Curiously, fortunately enough, sheer nervous tension jerked him away
from Anthony Fry just then and set him to pacing the floor, a man
distracted, a man unseeing, a man who recked of nothing on earth beyond
his terrible and immediate grief.
And this was very well indeed, for Anthony was making himself
Anthony took three backward steps and looked at the unconscious
Robert much as if the young man had branded himself a leper. He looked
at Johnson Boller, too, although his eyes were blankand then, one
hand on his head, Anthony staggered straight out of the room and into
the corridor; and, having gone that far, he turned and staggered down
to the window at the end of the window-seat, where he collapsed much as
if the bones had been whisked from his long, slender legs!
Here Johnson Boller, following, found him five seconds later. Mr.
Boller, who was beginning to feel downright peculiar himself with
Vining threshing about the living-room and babbling incoherent agony,
shook his old friend with no gentle hand as he demanded:
Say, you! What is it now? What in blazes got you that time,
Anthony? Are you going to have a fit?
Johnson! Anthony said feebly, clutching coldly at Mr. Boller's
plump hand. Oh, Johnson!
Her father! She's the daughter of Theodore Dalton, Johnson! She's
the daughter of the man they call the liniment king!
Yes? said Johnson Boller.
The icy hand closed tighter about his own, rousing something almost
akin to sympathy in Johnson Boller's bosom and causing him to lay a
soothing hand on Anthony's shoulderfor so do men cling to a raft in
Johnson, Anthony Fry said piteously. I've kidnaped the daughter
of the only man in the world who can ruin me, and he'll do it!
CHAPTER XI. The Other Lady
It was plain enough to Johnson Boller.
Anthony, poor devil, was raving at last! Since there was no one
likely to ruin Anthony, the strain had developed the illusion thator
was it an illusion? Anthony had calmed these last few seconds, clinging
childlike to his friend; his eyes denoted the general state of mind of
a hunted doe, but there was nothing more abnormal.
Say, kid, Johnson Boller began kindly. You
You don't understand, Anthony said hoarsely but more quietly.
I've never told you about the Dalton matter, because I've tried my
best to forget the interviewbut Dalton is the man who controls
virtually the whole proprietary liniment market, barring only Fry's
Imperial. Mymy liniment, said Anthony, and there was an affectionate
note in his voice which Johnson Boller had never heard before in
connection with the Imperial, is the only one he has failed to
Yes? said Johnson Boller, with rising interest.
Anthony smiled wanly, dizzily.
Well, Dalton came to the office one day about five years ago,
having made an appointment to meet me personally there. He wanted to
buy us out, and I wouldn't hear of itpartly sentiment and partly
because he didn't want to pay enough. Then he tried his usual tactics
of threatening to drive Imperial off the market, and I sat down and
pointed out to him just what it would cost and what it would gain him.
He's a hard devil, Johnson, and he was pretty angry, yet he saw the
reason in what I told him.
Go on, said Johnson Boller.
We parted on rather curious terms, groaned Anthony. One might
call it an armed truce, I suppose. He seemed to be willing to let
matters rest as they were, and he has done just that ever since; but he
told me in so many words that if ever I tried to break into his
particular market, if ever, for any cause, I offended him in any way,
he'd sail in and advertise me out of business.
Can he do it?
He can do it, Anthony said, with pained conviction. He can do it,
because he's able to spend a million where I spend ten thousand, and
once he starts Fry's Imperial Liniment is as dead as Julius Cæsar. And
when he learns about this thing
Hehe might never learn, Johnson Boller said, without even trying
to be convincing.
Anthony laughed forlornly.
Hell learn; I'm done for! said he. It's as good as done and over
with now, Johnson. Almost every cent I have in the world is invested in
the firm, you know, and once that goes to pieces Iwhy, great Heaven,
Johnson! I'll have to get out and work for a living!
Johnson Boller, for a little, said nothing at all. Coming from
another man, he would have fancied the statements largely exaggeration
and imagination; coming from Anthony he knew that they were mostly
Well, I told you in the first place that kid meant trouble, he
You have a prophetic soul! Anthony sighed.
Trouble isn't the word! Mr. Boller mused further. If you tell the
truth, according to your figuring, the old gentleman will ruin youbut
that doesn't matter much, because when you've told the truth it's a
dead sure thing Vining will let the daylight through you, so that
you'll have no need for money anyway. And if you go on trying to keep
it all dark and succeed in doing it, that Hitchin idiot will have us
both jailed for murderand we'll have to produce a David Prentiss
before we get out!
Anthony, gazing fixedly at him, felt hope that hardly dared to be
creeping into his eyes.
Johnson, could we get hold of a boy somewhere and bribe him? he
To do what?
To go into a police court and swear that he was David Prentiss and
that he came here last night and left again about half-past twelve,
said the model citizen, without even reflecting that it involved
perjury. If we could manage that it might be best of all to let
Hitchin go ahead.
Stick you and me in jail? Johnson Boller asked harshly.
Better that than risk
I don't see it! the less chivalrous gentleman snapped. There's
nothing inside urging me to go to jail for anybody's sake, even
overnight. And another thing, I've got a wife, Anthony! Just consider
where this would put me with Beatrice, and how dead certain it would
be, with Hitchin airing his views and conclusions, that he'd mention
the lady you introduce as Mrs. Boller!
But nothing! Johnson Boller said, his personal trouble coming
uppermost again. That's the worst break you've made so far, Anthony!
That Mrs. Boller business is likely to cause me
He shut his teeth on the end of the sentence. Wilkins, white and
distressed, was coming down the corridor with what looked rather like
kangaroo leaps. He came to David's door and stopped, turning the knob.
He enteredand immediately he left the room again and sped to Anthony.
She wishes to see you again, sir!
Anthony jerked obediently to his feet and laid a cold hand on
Get up there and keep Vining busy, he said. That's all. Hurry!
Johnson Boller shuffled back to the living-room, where the
unfortunate paced up and down and wrung his hands. Anthony, waiting
tremulously until he heard both their voices, hurried into Mary's
roomand looked at her with a new, dreadful terror. She was no longer
a merely unfortunate, unknown young woman whose good name he had placed
in considerable jeopardy; Mary, by now, had become the potential stick
of dynamite that bade fair to blast him out of the Lasande, out of his
regular life, out of everything but the chance to sally forth and hunt
Well? Well? she asked swiftly.
Is he gone? Is he gone? Mary cried.
He willgo shortly! Anthony said thickly. Youyou are Theodore
Mary stared at him.
So you've discovered that?
Hein a business way Anthony muttered vaguely.
Yes, that was my reason for coming here, Mary said, cheerfully
enough. I've heard him speak of youoh, no, not very flatteringly; I
don't think he likes you. I've heard him say that some day he'd wreck
you, when he was ready; and I was very curious indeed to see what sort
of man you were and whether you were nice enough to plead for, if he
ever started. I don't like dad to wreck people.
And that was another reason why I was afraid to tell the truth last
night, said Mary. If you were business enemiesbitter ones, I
meanand you found out that you had father's daughter herewell, that
has nothing to do with getting Bobby away, has it?
He'll go presently.
Presently isn't soon enough! Mary informed her captor. I sent for
Wilkins to tell you that he must go now!
But the boy is distracted and
Is he really suffering? Mary asked.
I think so.
The girl considered very thoughtfully indeed.
Maybe I'd better go out there and quiet him, poor little boy! she
said staggeringly. He'll believe me if I tell him the truth and
I wouldn't do that! Anthony exploded. He's wildly excited now,
and the truth might not appeal to him as reasonable.
Again Mary hesitated, causing his blood to congeal.
Very well. Then get rid of him now! she said sharply. If he ever
came down here and found me, all the explaining in the world would
He will not, Anthony said impatiently. Bob isn't the sort to
stray about one's apartment and
And from the corridor came:
She's gone, Boller! Johnson, she's gone!
And steps came in their direction, too, and while Mary Dalton turned
to flame, Anthony Fry turned to ice! He was coming and coming steadily,
and the door was open fully two inches. He was abreast of them now and
faithful Johnson Boller apparently was with him, for they heard
Well, I wouldn't go wandering around like that, old man. Come back
and sit down and we'll talk it over.
I'll sit here on the window-seat! Robert Vining panted.
Don't do that, Mr. Boller protested. No, not there, Bobby! That's
weak and likely to go down in a heap with you!
The steps ceased. Through ten terrible seconds Anthony Fry and
lovely Mary stood listening to the panting of the afflicted youth.
My God, Johnson! he cried wildly. II want to look over the
whole world at once for her! I want to look into every room in New
York! I want to look into every room in this place and then tear out
Yes, but you couldn't do that, Johnson Boller assured him
soothingly. Now, cut out the mad-house talk, old man, and come back.
Have one of Anthony's good, strong cigars and I'll dig out that brandy
he keeps for his best friends. Don't go nosing around these rooms!
said Johnson Boller, and simultaneously they caught the shiver in his
voice and saw the door move as Vining's hand landed on the knob. Just
control yourself and come back.
Robert Vining laughed hideously and helplessly.
I suppose I'm making an ass of myself! said his weak voice. I
can't help it! On my soul, I can't help it. Give me a shot of the
brandy, though, and maybe I'll steady a bit!
Something like one hundred years passed; then the hand slid from the
door and they could hear Johnson Boller leading the sufferer gently
away from the shock of his whole lifetime. Mary, her eyes closed for a
moment, gripped herself and spoke very softly:
Mr. Fry, ifif you don't get that boy out of here and then find a
way of sending me homeif you don't do it instantly, I'm going out
there to Bob and tell him that you brought me here and kept me here all
night against my will! After that, whatever happens, happens!
Life returned to Anthony's frozen legs.
I will go! he managed to say, and he went.
The brandy was already within Robert Vining, yet it seemed to have
made small difference in his condition. The young man's eyes were wild
and rolling; they rested on Anthony for a moment as if they had seen
him before but could not quite place him.
Youyou've been telephoning, he said.
Not yet, said Anthony, but if you'll run along and do your share,
I'll think up ways of helping you.
My share? Vining echoed.
Mentally, he was not more than half himself. Anthony Fry, therefore,
grew very firm and very stern, pleasantly certain that Robert was
paying no heed to his pallor or the uncontrollable shake that had come
to his hands.
If the girl has really disappeared, he said steadily, your part
is not to be sitting here and whining for help, Robert. Why don't you
get out and hustle and see if you can't get track of her? Have you gone
to all her friends?
Then go now! said Anthony Fry. You know her girl friends? Get
after the most intimate at firstand get about it!
Here he scowled, and Robert Vining, rising, shook himself together.
You're right, Anthony, he said. I'm an ass; I've lost my head
completely this last hour. II caught it from her father, I think; the
man's going about like an infuriated bull, swearing to kill everybody
in the world if Mary isn't returned andbut you're right, old chap.
Thank you for steadying me. Robert concluded bravely. Where's my hat?
I've been wearing it all this time, eh? Good-by, Anthony. Good-by,
He tried to smile at themand he fled. This time it was Johnson
Boller who turned weak at his going. Mr. Boller, smiling at his old
friend in a sickly, greenish way, dropped into a chair and mopped his
Narrow squeak, Anthony!
Yes! Anthony agreed, with some difficulty.
I was never so scared as that in all my life! Johnson Boller went
on faintly. I thought sure I'd have to watch it andAnthony, it
turned me so sick I could hardly stand on my feet!
The idea of seeing you shot down there, Mr. Boller said with a
shudder. Gad! I could picture the whole thing, Anthony! I could see
him start and look at you bothI swear I could see him pull a gun from
his pocket and shoot! I could see the blood spurting out of your
forehead, Anthony, and hear the chicken screech, and it turned me so
Didn't think of any of my sensations, did you? Anthony asked
As a matter of factno, I didn't! muttered Johnson Boller, with
another great shiver. What do your confounded sensations matter,
anyway? This whole affair is your fault, not mine! You deserve whatever
you getI don't! You've got nobody in the world to worry over you, but
I've got a wife, Anthony!
You have mentioned it before.
And I'm likely to mention it again! said Mr. Boller savagely. You
know, Anthony, I'm about through with this thing! I'm a nervous man,
and I can stand about so much suffering of my own, but I don't see the
idea of taking on yours as well. And what is more, this thing of
introducing this girl as my wife is
Well? What is it? Mary herself asked very crisply, appearing in
her disconcertingly and silent fashion.
Johnson Boller smiled feebly.
It's very flattering in some ways, MissMiss Dalton, but for a man
like me, who loves his wife, you know, and all that sort of thing
His voice thinned out and died before the decidedly cold light in
Mary's eye. It seemed to Johnson Boller that she had a low opinion of
himself; and when she looked at Anthony he noted that she had a low
opinion of Anthony as well.
Have you settled it yet! she snapped.
Theermeans of getting you out?
Is there anything more important?
Ahdecidedly not, Anthony said wearily. Several times, I think,
we've attempted a council of war, and we may as well try it again.
There will be no interruptions this time, I think, and if we all put
our minds to it
That was all. As on several other similar occasion, he halted
because of sounds from the doorway. It seemed to Anthony, indeed, that
he had heard Wilkins muttering at the telephone a moment ago, too; and
now the faithful one was at the door and working over the latch.
Mary's ears were preternaturally keen, too; Mary had acquired a way
of standing erect and poising every time sounds came from that door.
She did it now, remaining on tiptoe until the oddest little giggle
brought Anthony and Johnson Boller to their feet also.
That's a woman's voice! Mary whispered.
And she looked about wildly, and, since there was no hope of escape
unseen by the corridor, her eyes fell upon the open door of Johnson
Boller's room. Mary, with a bound that would have done credit to a
young deer, was across the room, and the door clicked behind her just
as Wilkins, smiling in a perturbed and mystified way, appeared to
A lady, sir, who
Then the lady had passed him, moving with a speed almost equal to
Mary's owna lovely lady, indeed, with great, flashing black eyes and
black haira lady all life and spirit, her face suffused just now with
a great joy. Wilkins, perceiving that neither gentleman protested after
gazing at her for one second, backed away to regions of his own, and
the spell on Johnson Boller broke and his soul found vent in one great,
glad cry of:
Pudgy-wudgy! cried the lady, and flew directly into Johnson
Anthony Fry steadied himself, mentally and physically, and the
little smile that came to his lips was more than half sneerbecause
Johnson Boller and his lovely wife were hugging each other and babbling
senselessly, and the best that Anthony could make of it at first was
And was it lonely? Oh, Pudgy-wudgy, was it lonely?
Whereat Johnson Boller burbled:
Lonely, sugar-plum? Lonely, sweetie? Oh, Beetie-girl, if
Pudgy-wudgy could tell you how lonely
Here they kissed again, three times, four times, five times!
Hell! said Anthony Fry.
And did it come back? the imbecile that had been Johnson Boller
The dark, exquisite head burrowed deep on Boller's shoulder.
Oh, Pudgy! a muffled voice protested, almost tearfully. I
couldn't do it! I thought I could, but I couldn't, sweetest!
And so it came back to its Pudgy-wudgy! Johnson Boller oozed
ecstatically. So it turned around and came back to its Pudgy!
Mrs. Boller regarded him solemnly, holding him off for a moment.
At some awful, awful place north of Albany, she said. I couldn't
go any farther and II was going to wire you to come for me, Pudgy!
And then I thought I'd stay at their terrible hotel and come down and
surprise you, and you weren't home and they said you'd come here!
Yes! Johnson Boller agreed.
How could you leave our home, Pudgy-wudgy? his darling asked
If I had stayed there another hour without my little chicky-biddy,
I'd have shot myself! said Pudgy-wudgy. Ask Anthony! And here he
looked at Anthony and demanded: Ain't we silly? Like a couple of
You certainly are! Anthony Fry rasped.
You don't have to screw your face all up when you say it! Mr.
Boller informed him, disengaging himself.
Beatrice laughed charmingly.
You'll overlook it, Mr. Fry? said she. We've never been separated
before in all the
Six months! beamed Johnson Boller.
that we've been married! finished his wife, squeezing his hand.
Followed a pause. Anthony had nothing whatever to say; after
witnessing an exhibition like that he never had anything to say for an
hour or more that a lady could hear. He stood, a cold, stately,
disgusted figure, surging internally, thanking every star in the
firmament that he had never laid himself open to a situation of that
kindand after a time the inimical radiations from him reached
Beatrice, for she laughed uneasily.
May Imay I fix my hair? she asked. And then we'll go home,
Yes, my love, purred Johnson Boller.
Which is your room, pigeon-boy? his bride asked.
So far as concerned Johnson Boller, Mary had been wafted out of this
world; all aglow with witless happiness, he pointed at the door as he
That one, Beetie-chicken.
Beatrice turnedand ten thousand volts shot through Anthony and
caused his hair to stand on end. His laugh, coming simultaneously, was
a loud, weird thing, splitting the still air.
Your bedroom, Johnson! he cried. She means your bedroom!
Wellof course? Beatrice said wonderingly.
Well, that's down at the end of the corridor, dear madam, Anthony
smiled wildly, and went so far as to stay her by laying hands on her
arm. Right down theresee? The open door. That's Johnson's room!
Beatrice, distinctly startled, glanced at him and nodded and left.
Anthony, drawing the first real breath in a full minute, glared at his
friend in silence; but the morning's dread situation had slid from
Johnson Boller's shoulders as a drop of water from a duck's back. For a
second or two he had been slightly jarred at the magnitude of the break
he had madebut that was all over now.
My mistake, old scout, he chuckled softly. You saved the
daywhat are you glowering about?
Clod! gasped Anthony.
Clod your necktie! Johnson Boller said airily. Well, did you ever
see the like of it? Did you ever see anything like the little
squeezicks, Anthony! She's back, bless her little heart! She couldn't
Umph! said his host.
And so I'm let out of it! Mr. Boller chuckled on. We'll just
scoot along to the little dove-cote, old vinegar-face, and see how she
looks after all this time. I can get my things later on. WellI'm
sorry to leave you with the problem on your hands, you know.
Don't let it disturb you! Anthony snapped.
But at that, you know, fate's doing the kind, just thing by
snatching me out, Mr. Boller concluded earnestly and virtuously. It
wasn't my muddle in the first place, and somehow I feel that you
haven't acted just on the level with me about any of it.
Anthony's mouth opened to protest. Yet he did not protest. Instead,
he jumped, just as one jumps at the unexpected explosion of a
fire-crackerfor down the corridor a scream, shrill and sharp, echoed
And after the scream came a long, choking gasp, so that even Wilkins
appeared in the doorway and Johnson Boller darted forward to learn what
had overtaken his only darling. He was spared the trouble of going down
the corridor, however. Even as he darted forward, Beatrice had rejoined
them; and having looked at her just once Johnson Boller stood in his
tracks, rooted to the floor!
Because Beatrice, the lovely, the loving, Beatrice of the melting
eyes and the high color, had left them. The lady in the doorway was
white as the driven snow and breathing in a queer, strangling way; and
whatever her eyes may have expressed, melting love for Johnson Boller
was not included.
For this unpleasant condition the hat in her hand seemed largely
responsible. It was a pretty little hat, expensively simple, but it was
the hat of a lady!
And, looking from it to Johnson Boller, Beatrice finally managed:
Thisthis! This hat!
Johnson Boller moved not even a muscle.
Who is the woman? Beatrice cried vibrantly. Who is she?
And still neither Anthony nor Johnson Boller seemed able to canter
up to the situation and carry it of with a blithe laugh. Anthony was
making queer mouths; Johnson Boller was doing nothing whatever, even
now; and when three seconds had passed Beatrice whirled abruptly on the
only other possible source of information present, which happened to be
You were here! she said swiftly. You answer me: who was the
Thethe woman, ma'am! Wilkins repeated.
Beatrice came nearer and looked up at him, and there was that in her
eyes which sent Wilkins back a full pace.
Youyou creature! Beatrice said. What woman was in this
apartment last night?
Now, as it chanced, Wilkins was far more intelligent than he looked.
Give him the mere hint to a situation and he could lumber through
somehow. Only a little while ago, when Hobart Hitchin came upon them,
he had caught the key to this affairso he smiled quite confidently
There was no woman here last night, ma'am, said Wilkins, only
Mrs. Boller, the wife of that gentleman there!
CHAPTER XII. The Crash
Now it was the turn of Beatrice to become rigid.
She did not even wink, those first few seconds. She looked straight
at Wilkins, searching his soul; and Wilkins, pleasantly conscious of
having done the right thing well, preserved his quiet, respectful smile
and wondered just which lady this newest might be.
He was telling the truth. He was telling the horrible, the
incredible truthand although those eyes of Mrs. Boller's might have
suggested that she was capable of passionate murder if goaded far
enough, they belied her actions just now. One slim, white hand went to
her throat for a moment, as if to ease her breathing, but when she
spoke her tone was very low, very quiet indeed:
Mrs. Boller was here?
Yes, madam! Wilkins responded in round tones.
All last night?
Eryes, madam. She
Johnson Boller returned to life! Johnson Boller, with a thick,
senseless shout, bounded forward and landed directly between Wilkins
and his beloved as he snarled:
Say, youyou lying dog! You
Let him alone! his wife said quickly. Permit him to tell me the
He's not telling you the truth! cried Johnson Boller. He's lying!
Hewhy, Wilkins, I'll smash your face into so many nasty little pieces
I beg pardon, sir! Wilkins said hastily. Thethe lady was
There was no lady here! Mr. Boller shouted.
Wilkins put up his hands.
Well, the lady that was eating breakfast, sir, after a manner of
speaking, he stammered. Her that was introduced as Mrs. Boller, which
caused me to take it, sir, that she
Say! I said there was no lady here and there was no lady here! Get
that, you putty-faced idiot! Johnson Boller cried frantically, for he
was beyond reason. What do you mean by standing there and lying and
babbling about some woman
Again Wilkins's intelligence manifested itself. To be a perfect
servant, one's teeth must remain in place and one's face must be free
from bruises. Wilkins, after a brief, intent look at Johnson Boller's
fists, turned and fled!
So this, said Mrs. Johnson Boller with deadly calm, is what
happens when you think I've gone away!
Her husband turned upon her and threw out his hands.
Beatrice! he cried. I swear to you
Don't touch me, you filthy creature! said his Beatrice. II
couldn't have thought it. You seemed different from other men!
This woman Johnson Boller floundered, and then caught
Anthony's cold eye. It was an amused eye, too, and the sneer was in it;
and Johnson Boller pointed at its owner suddenly and said: Ifif
there was a woman here, blame him!
Beatrice Boller looked Anthony Fry up and down, and her lips curled.
I doa little! she said bitterly. I've never cared very much for
you, Mr. Fry, butoh, why did you do that? You know as well as I know
that Johnson isn't thatthat sort of a man! If he wanted to come here
and stay with you, couldn't you have been, just for oncedecent
Madam! thundered Anthony Fry, when breath came to him.
There was no music in Beatrice's laugh; an ungreased saw goes
through hardwood more sweetly.
Spare yourself the effort of that righteous rage, she said. I
know your saintly type of man so well, and I've begged Johnson to have
nothing to do with you.
And I give you my word Johnson Boller began.
That he brought the woman here? his wife asked.
And you remained! finished Johnson Boller's better half. Where is
She isn't here now! came almost automatically from Anthony.
Once more Beatrice laughed.
Isn't she, though? said she. That sort doesn't leave a
twenty-dollar hat behind, Mr. Frynor a bag worth perhaps five times
as much. She had moved in quite cozily, hadn't she? If I hadn't
appeared, her trunk would have been alongor perhaps it is here now?
If I hadn't Mrs. Boller continued, and her voice broke as the
unearthly calm splintered and departed.
Where is she? And, her whole mien altering in an instant,
Mrs. Boller's hands clenched tightly and her face flamed with outraged
fury. Where is she?
Johnson Boller looked around wildly and helplessly.
I tell you, she isn't here! he began. You see
And I tell you that that's a lie! said his wife. I'll find her,
and when I do find her, Johnson Boller, some one will pay on the
spot for the home I've lost! Do you hear? I'll suffersuffer for it,
perhaps! But she'll pay!
The Spanish grandmother had risen in Beatrice and declared herself!
Cold-blooded assassination shook the air of Anthony's apartment. His
head spun; he wondered hysterically if there would be much screaming
before it was all overif the police and the Lasande employees would
break in before the ghastly finish of the affair. There would be just
one finish, and it was written in those flaming eyes, written more
clearly than any print!
And afterward? Well, there would be no afterward for Anthony. He
understood that perfectly, yet he was too numb to grieve just now.
Fifteen minutes after the worst had happened, the Lasande would present
him with a check covering the balance of his lease and would request
him to go: such was the procedure here and it had proved court-proof.
Although he could afford to laugh at them. He had merely to sit down
and wait until the news had traveled a bit; Mary's father or Robert
Vining would attend to the restand there would be the end of Anthony
Fry's stately, contented existence.
Beatrice was gone!
Flaming eyes, heaving bosom, pathetic little hatall had vanished
together, but they had vanished down the corridor, and life leaped
suddenly through Anthony's veins. Even now there was a chancefaint
and forlorn, but still a chance to save Mary's life at least! He
turned, did Anthony Fry, just as Johnson Boller flew after his demented
spouse, and glided into Johnson Boller's bedroom.
Mary, very white indeed, was waiting for him.
Where is she now? she panted.
Of course I heard!
Miss Mary, said Anthony, I'm afraid that the time has come when
we'll have to stop planning and act. The lady iseressentially crazy
just now. It is painful enough, but you'll have to leave as you are.
Yes, even without a hat, for she has that. Simply leave!
And if I'm recognized?
It is unavoidable.
Mary stamped her foot.
Well, it isn't, and I think you're the stupidest old man I ever
knew! she said flatteringly, as she sped to the closet. Here! Give me
a hand with it!
The wardrobe trunk, of course. I've been looking at it and trying
to get it open, but I cannot do it in there. I'm going out in that
Eh? said Anthony, tugging at it quite stupidly.
Open it! Mary commanded.
Anthony opened it.
Yes, there's room and to spare, if you'll take out those drawers
and things! the girl said quickly. No! Pile them in the closet
neatly; she'll look in there! Now, about your man; is he strong?
Very, I believe.
Get him here, quick! said Mary.
She seemed to have taken matters into her own hand; more, she seemed
to know what she was about. Anthony, after an instant of blank staring,
pushed four times on the button of Johnson Boller's room, which signal
indicated that Wilkins was needed in a hurry.
Some four or five seconds they stood, breathing hard, both of them,
and listening for the sounds of disaster which might echo any minute
from the corridor. They had not echoed when Wilkins appeared.
You! Wilkins is your name? Mary said. Wilkins, I'm going to get
into the trunk! Have you grasped that?
And you, instantly, are going to take the trunk, with me in it, to
my homeyou know where that is? You don't, of course. Well, load the
trunk into a taxi and tell the man to go across to West End Ave!
And the corner of Eightyth Street! Anthony supplied.
Exactly! said the girl. Go to the side door and take in the
trunk, through the yard, of course, and say it is for FeliceFelice
Moreau, my maid? Have you the name, Wilkins?
Felice Moreau, miss. Yes, miss, said the blunderer.
And then take it to her room and get out! Mary concluded. Don't
lock the thing. Load it into the back of the cab with yourself and try
to get it open a little so that I'll have air, when we've started!
Saying which, Mary Dalton, who knew a really desperate situation
when she saw one, and who also inherited much of her father's superb
executive ability in a genuine emergencyMary gathered her skirts and
stepped into the trunk, huddling down as prettily and gracefully as if
it had been rehearsed for weeks!
She looked at Wilkins, and Wilkins, with a sweep, had closed the
lid; and with a great emotional gulp Wilkins looked at his master and
My eye, sir! A bit of all right, that, Mr. Fry!
Anthony Fry nodded quickly and thrust several bills into his hand.
Don't stand there talking about it! he said. Get your hat and
hustle, Wilkins! Take the first taxi you see andand handle her
gently! Felice Moreau, Wilkinsremember that.
I shall, indeed, sir! said the faithful one; and, delicate
consideration in every finger, he lifted the trunk and walked into the
living-room, while Anthony Fry held his breath and followed every move
with fascinated eyes.
Through the room, then, went Wilkins and trunk together and to the
door. The sober black felt affair he had used these three years was on
Wilkins's head now, and he lugged the trunk onwardturned in the outer
hall and lugged it to the freight elevatorand now, as Anthony watched
from the doorway of his lately peaceful home, onto the freight
The door closed on the little car. The door closed on Anthony's
apartment, with Anthony insideand again he was that stately,
dignified, reticent and austere being; the Anthony Fry of yesterday!
A trifle stiffly, perhaps, he moved to his pet armchair, and into it
he sank with an undeniable thud, grasping the arms fondly as one might
grasp a friend returned from a long and perilous journey, and staring
Amazing! More than that, dumfounding!
Five minutes back he had been seriously resigned to ruin and death.
Now he was quite utterly all right once more!
Anthony looked about at all the familiar things; it seemed to him
that he had not seen them for a long, long time, and that they
stretched out welcoming hands to him. Weakly, he smiled and rested his
head in the well-worn spot on the back.
What a wonderfully capable little person she was! Why had none of
them thought of a trunk before? Orwhat matter if none of them had, so
that Mary had gained the inspiration? She had saved herself and she had
saved Anthonybless her little heart! She had saved everything,
because she was gone!
And she was perfectly safe in Wilkins's hands. Wilkins, faithful,
powerful soul, would carry her tidily into the room of the maid Felice,
wherever that might lie in Dalton's absurdly ornate pile, and between
Felice and Mary a story would be arranged to cover everything.
Momentarily, Anthony frowned, for he disapproved of mendacity in any
formbut there are some lies so much better than the truth that
shortly he smiled again and hoped from the bottom of his heart that
Mary's lie would be a winner.
And now that all was wellAnthony sat upright quite abruptly. All
was not exactly well as yet; Johnson Boller and his wife were coming
down the corridor and, almost as he heard them, the lady passed him.
She said nothing. Beatrice had passed the talking stage. Cheeks
white again and eyes blazing, she threw open the door of Anthony's
chamber and shot inward! One felt the pause as she looked around; one
heard the door of the closet openand then the door of the other
closet. Then one saw the pleasing Beatrice again as she shot out, hat
still in hand.
One lightning, searing glance whizzed over the calm Anthony and the
purple, perspiring Johnson Boller. Then Beatrice had turned and hurtled
into Johnson Boller's room itself, and Johnson Boller dropped into the
chair beside Anthony and whined.
It's over! said he. It's over!
Oh, no, Anthony said.
And you listen to this! Johnson Boller thundered suddenly, sitting
up and pointing one pudgy finger at his friend. The poor kid's crazy!
I can't stop her! She'll kill the little skirt as sure as there's a sky
overhead, and she'll go to the chair for it, laughing! And when she has
gone, Fry, when it's all over, I'm going to shoot you full of
holes and then kill myself! Get me? This world isn't big enough for you
to get away from me, now! I swear to you
You might better dry up, said Anthony with his incomprehensible
Boller turned dully. Beatrice was with them again, and yet there had
been no scream, no crash. There was about Beatrice nothing at all to
suggest a woman who has tasted the sweet of revenge. White lips shut,
she sailed past them, on her way to Wilkins's pantry and his humble
Didn't she find her? choked Boller.
She isn't there.
Where'd she go?
Anthony smiled cynical condescension.
Once in a while I'm able to manage these things if I'm left alone,
he said, assuming much credit to which he had no title.
Well, is she out of this flat? Johnson Boller asked hopefully.
She certainly is, you poor fool, said his host.
Beatrice had finished her unlovely hunt. Even again, she was with
them, and now she looked straight at Johnson Boller, ignoring the very
existence of Anthony Fry.
I haven't found her, said Beatrice. She's hidden somewhere, or
else she's with other friends in this wretched, sanctimonious
Beatrice Johnson Boller began, with a great, hopeful gasp.
But I will find her! the lady assured him, and when I
doI'm going now.
Momentarily, Beatrice's eyes swam. It seemed a good sign, and
Johnson Boller rose hurriedly. The eyes ceased swimming and blazed at
I am never going there again, Beatrice informed him, with the old,
chilling calm. I shall go to a hotel, and later, I hope, back to
father and mother. You will hear from my lawyers, Johnson, within a day
But, Beatrice Johnson Boller protested. That doesn't mean
that you're crazy enough toto try divorcing me?
I am not crazy, and there will be very little trouble about it,
Johnson, the lady said gravely. That is what it means. Good-by.
A moment she paused before Johnson Boller, looking him up and down
with a scorn so terrible that, innocent or otherwise, he cringed
visibly. Another moment her eyes seemed to soften a little, for they
were deep and wonderful, maddeningly beautiful, but millions of miles
from the unworthy creature who had once called them his own. This,
apparently, was Beatrice's fashion of saying an eternal good-by to one
she had once lovedfor having looked and thrilled him, she moved on,
and the door closed behind her.
She means it! croaked Johnson Boller.
She'll cool down, said Anthony.
She will not, andshe means it! cried his friend, wrath rising by
great leaps. She's going to sue me for divorceme, that never
even looked a chicken in the eye on the street. She's going to bust up
our happy little home, Anthony, and it's your fault!
Poppycock! said his host.
That be damned! stated Johnson Boller, and this time he actually
howled the foul words. That's what she wants to do, and I don't blame
her! But she'll never do it, Anthony! Your reputation's all rightit's
unfortunate for the girl, of course, but I'm going to stop her!
I'm going to tell the cold truth and make the girl back it up!
I owe something to myself and to Beatrice, and I don't owe anything
to you or the Dalton girl! Where's my hat?
Anthony gripped him suddenly.
Are you cur enough, said he, angrily, to sacrifice Miss Dalton
You bet I am! said Johnson Boller. If it comes down to that,
the truth can't hurt her, and any little odds and ends of things
that happen before all hands understand the truth will happen to
Anthony smiled wickedly.
Just listen to me a moment before you start! he said curtly.
Listen to what?
Something I have to say which will interest you very much! This
trifling family affair of yours isn't nearly so serious as you fancy.
In a day or two or a week or two it will all blow overand if it
doesn't you may thank your lucky stars to be rid of a woman so
infernally unreasonable, said Anthony. But I'm hanged if I'll permit
you to sacrifice that girl!
Ho! said Johnson Boller derisively. How are you going to stop
In just this way! Anthony continued suavely. You breathe just one
word of the truth, Johnson, and I will tell a story which
involves you and, while there will not be a word of truth in it,
it will get over in great shape, because everybody knows that I'm a man
whose word is as good as his bond. I'll tell such a story about you as
will raise the very hair on your head and have an infuriated mob after
you before the papers have been on the street for twenty minutes! Do
The mysterious woman will be an innocent country girl, I think, who
came here to make a living and lift the mortgage on the old farm, and
whom you approached on the street and finally dazzled with a few
lobster palaces. She'll be beautiful and virtuous, Johnson, and I think
she'll tell me, in tears, how you fed her the first cocktail she ever
Wait! Johnson Boller said hoarsely.
That is the merest outline of the story I shall tell, and when I've
had time to work out the details, I'll guarantee that Beatrice will
never even consent to live in the same city with youeven if you bring
sworn proofs of the story's falsity! I'll represent you to be a thing
abhorred by all half-way decent men and even shunned by self-respecting
dogs! Don't think I'm bluffing about it, either, Johnson! I mean to
protect Mary Dalton!
There is a vast difference between the coarse, rough character,
however blusteringly impressive he may be, and the truly strong one.
Frequently, the one is mistaken for the other, but under the first real
stress the truth comes out.
Johnson Boller for example, looking into his friend's coldly shining
eye, did not draw himself up and freeze Anthony with his conscious
virtue. He did puff out his cheeks defiantly, to be sure, and mutter
incoherently, but that lasted for only a few seconds.
Then the eye won and Johnson Boller, dropping into his chair again,
likewise dropped his head into his hands and groaned queerly.
Anthony, looking contempt at him, fancied that he wept.
Anthony sneered and smiled.
CHAPTER XIII. In the Box
Now, for a little, let us watch the movements of the intelligent
Getting the trunk to the street was no trouble at all. The girl
weighed, perhaps, one hundred and twenty pounds, and the trunk itself
another fifteen or twenty, and handling that amount of weight was a
mere joke to Wilkins. Therefore, he stood in the side street beside the
Lasande, having carefully deposited his burden, and looked about for a
taxiand presently one of these bandit vehicles rolled up to the curb
and the hard-faced little man behind the wheel barked:
Yes, said Wilkins. I wish
Stick the box up front! snapped the driver. I kin give you a
I'm taking the box in back with me, said Wilkins.
Nothing doing! said the driver. What d'ye think that paint's made
It was entirely possible that Mary was stifling by this time.
Wilkins used his wits as he fumbled in his pockets and asked:
Your cab, old chap?
Put this five-dollar bill into your pocket and give me a hand
setting the box in the back, said Wilkins. It's packed with delicate
stuff, and the master instructed me particular to keep a hand on it.
So, while the hard-faced one smiled brightly and, the bill in his
pocket, reflected that a murder must have been committed but that it
was none of his business in any case, Anthony's wardrobe trunk was
stood erect and the taxicab rolled off swiftly, headed for the palatial
home of Theodore Dalton.
A block or two and, in the most uninterested way, Wilkins managed to
open the lid for an inch or more, and in the space appeared a little
pink nose and, presently, as the nose withdrew, a brilliant blue eye.
Can you open it a little more? asked Mary.
Wilkins opened it a little more.
I trust you're quite comfortable, miss? he asked politely.
Lovely! said Mary. Did any oneseem to notice when we left?
Not a soul, miss.
Mary, cramped though she might be, sighed vast relief.
Tell Mr. Fry, when you get back, that I'll send for the things I
left behind, she said softly.
And Wilkins, when you get to the house, said Mary, be absolutely
sure that you take me to Felice's room!
I understand, purred Wilkins, just above the rumble of traffic.
Here Mary's whole face almost appeared.
I want you to be very sure about that indeed! she urged. Never
mind what the other servants say or where they want you to leave the
trunk. You insist that it is for Felice, and has to be delivered to her
personally; and if you have a chance to give her some sort of sign to
accompany you to the room, do it. I think she'll understand.
Yes, miss, Wilkins agreed.
And above and beyond all things, keep your face perfectly
expressionless when you meet Bates, Wilkins. Bates is our butler, you
know, and he's the most inquisitive creature in the world. Is this
Only with Mr. Fry's initials, miss'A. F.'
Mary frowned up at him through the crack.
That'll have to be explained too, she sighed. Welllet's see. Do
you think of anything plausible, Wilkins?
The perfect treasure glanced at the driver, who was quite intent on
his own affairs and apparently not listeningand Wilkins smiled quite
If I might make so bold as to suggest it, miss, he said, why not
say that the trunk comes fromwell, the cousin of this Felice,
perhaps? Has she a female cousin?
Nobody knows it if she hasn't.
Then it might be said that this comes from her cousinerAimee
Fourier. That sounds rather well for a name?
Great, Wilkins! said Mary.
And it might further be said that this cousin, a person perhaps in
the trade of making gowns and the like, since I believe that such use
these trunks quite a bitit might be said that the cousin, having no
further use for this trunk, is sending it to your maid, miss.
Sheer admiration shone in Mary's visible eye.
Wilkins, you're a jewel! said its owner. Where are we now?
On West End Avenue, miss, within a block or two of your home.
Shut the trunk, Wilkins, her voice said softly, We're safe!
She, who had suffered so many shocks since last night, seemed
assured that at last all was well; and as a matter of fact Wilkins felt
much the same about the whole affair. He gazed placidly at the sign on
the corner and, closing the trunk, leaned forward to the driver.
The big limestone place over there, I think it is, said he. Go to
the side gate, old chap.
Seconds only, and they rolled to a standstill at the curb. Anthony's
priceless personal servant lifted out his burden and set it on the
sidewalk with no effort at all.
Wait a bit and take me back, he smiled at the driver, as he
started for the handsome black iron gate in the cream-colored brick
wall that shut the Dalton back yard from the passing throng. There was
a little electric push beside it, and Wilkins, having laid a finger on
it, waited serenely.
Offhand, it seemed to him, he had saved the day for Anthony Fry. A
smaller, weaker man must have passed up the job of carrying out the
trunk single-handed. Yes, he had saved the day and, also offhand, the
saving should be worth about twenty dollars when he returned to Anthony
and reported. Or possibly, considering the really horrible features of
the case as Wilkins understood them, even fifty dollars.
That was not too much. In fact, the more he thought of it, the more
Wilkins felt that his return would be marked by the sight of a crisp
yellow note from Anthony's prim, well-stocked wallet. Thirty-two of
this should go into the black-and-white pin-checked suit he had been
considering enviously in a Broadway window for nearly a month; ten more
should go into Wilkins's savings-bank account, which was quite a tidy
affair; and he thought that the other eight might as well be sent to
his nephew, who was working his way through a veterinary college in
And here the houseman opened the door and looked at Wilkins; and
Wilkins picking up his trunk, stepped through and into the back yard,
and then, the door of the basement laundry being open, into the laundry
Only the under-laundress was present, which caused him to stiffen as
he said coldly:
Thethe poor young lady's maid! said the laundress, with a sudden
I'll take it to her room, Wilkins said. Where will that be, and
where will I find the young woman herself?
The under-laundress dried her eyes on one corner of her apron.
I dunno about Felice, she said uncertainly. Mebbe Mr. Batesoh,
here comes Mr. Bates now.
Round, red, highly perturbed, the Dalton butler bustled into the
laundry and looked Wilkins up and down.
Trunk for the master? he asked crisply.
For Felice, the young lady's maid, as I understand, Wilkins said
quietly. Where shall I find her? It's for herself.
His calm and superior smile warned Bates not to question an affair
that could not possibly concern himyet the warning missed Bates
somehow. He looked sharply at Wilkins and laughed.
You'll not find her here! said he.
I mean Felice, the maid of
I know the one you mean, Bates said briefly. She's not here and
she'll not be here again! She's been dismissed!
What? said Wilkins.
Bates looked him over sternly, as if to suggest that if he happened
to be a friend of Felice he had passed beneath contempt.
She's went! Bates said sourly. This here house is no place
for young Frenchies that wanders the streets at night, believe me. She
sneaked inI dunno what hour this early morning, and she was able to
give no account at all of where she'd been. There wasn't no further
questions asked; she went, bag and baggage!
One of those mental clouds which had been troubling Anthony since
last night came now to engulf the complacent Wilkins. He looked at
Bates, as if refusing to believe a word of it. He looked at the trunk
and his expression was a study.
Well, as to where this young person has gone, Wilkins said. You
see, this trunk being, as it were, her personal property, I've been
asked to see that she gets it herself and
Where she's gone is no concern of ours. We don't know and we don't
want to know! said Mr. Bates. The hussy went without a character and
that's all we can tell you about her. And this here house is too full
of trouble for me to be bothering with you about her trunk, concluded
Mr. Bates. Anything belonging to her gets out!
Out! Wilkins muttered.
Out! said Mr. Bates, and pointed at the door.
* * * * *
Let us not forget what Anthony altogether forgot, to wit: the
sinister warning of Hobart Hitchin in regard to shipping boxes, trunks
or other containers that might well have held a dismembered body.
For one of Hitchin's strange temperament and habits of thought, his
own apartment could not have been situated more happily, if an affair
of this kind were to involve Anthony Fry.
Room for room, the home of the prosperous crime-student was directly
below that of Anthony; they used the same dumbwaiter, and they were
served by the same service elevator, so that if Hitchin had so elected
he could even have inspected the meals that went to Anthony's table.
Still more, they were in the old wing of the Lasande, where the rooms
are larger, but where the floorslaid long before the days of
sound-proof concrete fillingpermit the unduly inquisitive to hear
much of what goes on above and below.
According to his own reasoning, Hitchin had struck upon the
investigation of his whole lifetime. Surely as he wore spectacles,
murder had been done in the flat of the impeccable Anthony Fry.
What the motive could possibly be, Hobart Hitchin could only guess,
as he had already guessed; but it was a fact that he had been
suspicious ever since Anthony's appearance last night with the slim boy
of the heavy storm coat and the down-pulled cap. These, failing to
harmonize with anything that went in and out of the Lasande ordinarily,
had twanged every responsive string in Hitchin's consciousness, and not
by any manner of means had the strings ceased twanging after his
unusual interview with Anthony.
Hence, having returned to his own flat, he waited tense and
expectant. With straining ears he heard the coming of Beatrice Boller
and the subsequent excitement, and to him her peculiar cries signified
another friend of David Prentiss's who had come suddenly upon the
grisly thing that had once been the young boy.
And now those processes of deductive reasoning which are used so
successfully in fiction and so infrequently in real life, informed
Hobart Hitchin that the crime's next step was almost at hand.
Accustomed to murder or otherwise, an intelligent man like Anthony Fry
would risk no more of these disturbances; whatever his original plans,
he would seek very shortly to get the body out of the Lasandehardly
in grips, Hitchin fancied, probably not in a packing case, rather in
that reliable actor in so many sensational murders, a trunk.
Here, on the floor above him, some one moved and bumped what was
unquestionably a hollow, empty trunk!
As the veteran fireman responds to the gong, so did the brain of
Hobart Hitchin respond to that bump! Fifteen seconds and he had
visualized the whole of the next step; the trunk to the freight
elevator, thence to the street, thence to the waiting motor express
Again, after a time, came the bump, indicating that the trunk was in
the living-room nowand then, absolutely true to the hypothesis,
Anthony's door opened and the bumps went to the hall, while the freight
elevator came up the shaft!
The brief-case containing the trousers of David Prentiss had not
left Hobart Hitchin's cold hand. It did not leave now as, snatching a
hat, he sped down the back stairs of the Lasandea proceeding likely
to save five seconds at least when one considered the slow response of
the elevatorscut through the second floor and came down to the side
entrance, just beyond the office and the desk.
There was a taxicab as usual at the curb just here. Without leaving
the vestibule, Hobart Hitchin signaled it to wait for him; and then,
ever so charily, he thrust forward his eagle eyes and directed their
merciless beam through the side panel of the glass. Hobart Hitchin all
but lost his self-control and laughed excitedly, for there, just down
the block, Anthony's personal servant was lugging a wardrobe trunk to
Ah! And he planned to use the safer taxicab, apparently, rather than
the truck; and it seemed to Hobart Hitchin that the driver knew his
full errand and demanded his share in advance, because Wilkins handed
him money. After that, without effort, because David Prentiss had been
light and slender in life, Wilkins took his ghastly burden into the
back of the cab and drove away.
But Hobart Hitchin, the relentless, was just twenty yards behind,
and his driver, spurred by a ten-dollar bill, bent forward and watched
every turn of the wheels as he followed. Thus they left the region of
the Lasandeand since we all have our personal dreams, it was right
enough for Hobart Hitchin to sit back and indulge his own.
As a millionaire now and then makes himself part and parcel of the
local fire-department, following faithfully to every blaze, answering
every alarm, so Hobart Hitchin, with a patrimony that rendered real
work absurd, dreamed of the day when he should be recognized as the
most eminent private expert in crime these great United States have
Mistily, he had been able time and time again to visualize himself,
spectacles and all, surrounded by perturbed policemen who had come to
the end of their rope in crime detection, who listened respectfully
while he expounded the elements of the particular case in hand. But the
mists were almost gone now; this brilliant morning, for the very first
time, Hobart Hitchin had picked off a live one.
Yes, and it grew more and more live every second, for instead of
heading downtown, and tryingas Hobart Hitchin had fully expectedto
ship the trunk by express to some out-of-town point, Wilkins had made
his way to West End Avenue!
This in itself was very curious; it did not even suggest that
Wilkins was headed out of town with the remains; and it did not even
hint at the astounding thing which followed, several blocks farther
uptown! As the taxi stopped at Theodore Dalton's side gate, Hitchin all
but fell from his cab as he craned forward!
By some lucky accident, he knew that house, and knew, in a general
way, of its owner. This was the liniment kingand Anthony Fry was the
owner of Fry's Imperial Liniment; there was a link as of solid steel,
made of liniment only, yet utterly unbreakable!
What did it mean? What could it mean?
Hitchin leaned back for an instant and closed his eyes, giving his
mighty brain the freest rein of its existence, urging it with every
fiber in him to hit upon the correct theory.
And then, eyes opening, it almost seemed that he had hit upon it!
These two, Dalton and Fry, were doubtless associated in business,
whatever the supposed rivalry. Was it not thinkable that the devilish
messes of one or the other had ruined the health of the Prentiss boy?
Was it not possible that Anthony, luring him to his home, had been
trying to buy him off from a threatened suitget a quit-claim or
something of that kind? For that matter, could it be anything else? The
boy had refused andbig business had wiped out another individual!
He might well enough be wrong, but if wrong he were, why was Wilkins
taking the trunk straight into the premises of Theodore Dalton? He had
done that now, and now the gate had closed upon him, and Hobart
Hitchin, suddenly determined on the most spectacular act of his life,
tapped his driver on the shoulder.
Go around to the front of this houseyes, the corner one! he
said, and there was a little shake in his voice.
His path was clear enough. Anthony Fry would not seek to escape as
yet; they never did at this stage when they fancied the crime itself
safely out of the way. Anthony would be there when wantedand
single-handed, Hobart Hitchin meant to take into custody the two most
sensational murderers of their generation!
It was a tremendous thing. By the time he had stepped up to the
spacious door of Theodore Dalton's home, the tremendousness of it had
so overcome Hobart Hitchin that he could not have reasoned out the two
times two multiplication table! He was for the time a man bereft of
what most of us consider senses, so that he walked straight past Bates
You're bringing word, sir? Bates cried.
I wish to see Mr. Dalton. He is at home, said Hitchin.
Bates considered for a moment and then nodded; it was no morning for
In here, sir! he said, pattering off quickly to Dalton's study.
He pattered out again as quickly, and Hobart Hitchin, having taken a
chair, rose from it at once and took to walking, brief-case still
clutched in his hand and an exalted smile on his lips. So Theodore
Dalton found him when he entered, fifteen seconds latera mighty man,
deep of chest, savage of eye, square of chin, with great hairy hands
and a shaggy gray head. Not more than a single second did Dalton look
at Hitchin before he barked:
Well? Well? You are bringing word of her?
Her? smiled Hobart Hitchin, with unearthly calm.
My daughter! Theodore Dalton thundered. What
I know nothing about your daughter, Dalton, Hitchin said, with his
icy smile. Will you be seated?
No! said the master of the house. What the devil do you want
here, if it isn't about my daughter?
I want just five minutes conversation with you, on a matter which
concerns you most vitally.
Theodore Dalton closed his hairy fists.
Look here, sir, he said, with a calm of his own which was
decidedly impressive. If you're jackass enough to come in here on the
morning when my daughtermy daughterhas disappearedif
you're clown enough to try to sell me anything
I'm not trying to sell you anything; I'm trying to tell you
something! Hitchin said, and there was something so very peculiar
about his smile that even Theodore Dalton postponed the forcible
eviction for a few minutes.
Tell me what?
Dalton, said Hobart Hitchin, the game is up!
What? rasped Mr. Dalton.
The boy, David Prentissor what remains of the boy, David
Prentisshas just been brought into your house. And I know!
Theodore Dalton said nothing; for a moment he could say nothing.
Hitchin's teeth showed in a triumphant smile.
Murder will out! said he. Murder
Murder! Theodore Dalton snarled. What the
David Prentiss, who was murdered last night, has been brought
here! the palpable lunatic pursued. Don't shout! Don't try to strike
Already he had opened the brief-case; now, with a dramatic whisk, he
spread the trousers on the table.
And if he looked for an effect upon Dalton, the effect was there
even in excess of any expectation! Theodore Dalton, after one quick
downward glance, cried out queerly, thickly, far down in his throat!
His eyes seemed to start from his head; his hands, going out together,
snatched up the trousers and held them nearer to the window. With a
jerk, Theodore Dalton turned one of the rear pockets inside out and
looked swiftly at the little linen name-plate sewed therein by the
tailor who had made them.
The trousers dropped from his fingers and Theodore Dalton collapsed!
Gray, gasping, unable to speak at first, he crumpled into the chair
beside the table and stared up numbly at Hobart Hitchin, who smiled
just as he had always meant to smile in the event of such a moment
coming before his death.
Youyou! Dalton choked. You saythe wearer of those trousers
has been murdered?
As you know, said Hobart Hitchin. The boy
A boy about twenty-two, smooth shavena nice kida boy with a
shock of brown hair andand Theodore Dalton cried, in a queer,
broken little voice, as he gripped the table. No! No! Not that boy!
That boy! said Hitchin. David Prentiss!
Dalton's whole soul seemed to burst!
It was no David Prentiss! he cried. Mymy daughter's gone and
now my only son has been murdered!
CHAPTER XIV. Concerning Three Groups
For the first time, Wilkins looked at Mr. Bates and thought swiftly.
Having thought for half a minute, he had accomplished a complete circle
and was exactly where he had started. It was plain that the maid Felice
was somewhere else; equally plain was it that, for the purpose of the
moment, the maid Felice could satisfactorily be in but one placeand
that right here!
Had she merely been out for a little time he could have taken the
trunk to her room and, opening the lid a bit, could have fled with his
task accomplished; she was, however, out permanentlyso that the very
best Wilkins had accomplished at the end of a full minute was:
Out? Quite so. But where has the young person gone, if you please?
Mr. Bates scowled angrily.
We don't know, I've told you! he said sharply. When one of the
help's dismissed under circumstances like that, we don't trouble to ask
where she's going and we don't keep her address.
But she might be having mail to forward Wilkins essayed
Any mail that comes for her'll be handed to the carrier again,
Bates snapped. And now will you get her box out of here, you? I can't
have it about, and I've no time this morning to argue with you. The
master's daughter's disappeared and we're all on edge.
And not a soul in the world knowing where she's gone, poor lamb!
sniveled the under-laundress, laying a hand on the trunk that held
Mary. And her that home-loving she never
Hush! said Mr. Bates.
The woman subsided into her apron.
Whatever's taken her, she's trying to get home! She's trying
Well, whatever's taken her, get that trunk out of here! the Dalton
Was there anything else to do? Wilkins, having thought until his
head ached, could not see it. If the girl had a friend among the help,
it might be left with the friend; but the only woman of the household
present had taken pains to look properly scandalized at each mention of
Felice. Or if Mary hadn't cautioned him particularly against this
Bates, he would have risked taking Bates aside and communicating the
But since things were as they were, and not as they might have been;
since Bates was actually glaring at him now, and would, in another
minute, be banging the trunk back to the street himself, there was
really nothing left for Wilkins but to grip the wide handle and start
slowly for the door again.
It was bad! Oh, it was very bad, with Mary in there and very likely
stifling to death, but Wilkins shuffled slowly back to the taxicab with
his burden, slowly and carefully put it aboard once more.
What's wrong? asked the driver.
The party it was for had left! said Wilkins.
Wilkins pondered heavily.
Back again where we came from, he sighed. But you might go rather
slow, I think. Like enough I'll change my mind and decide to take it
somewhere else. I can't say at the moment.
Clambering after himself, he looked about while the man hopped out
and cranked his motor. Failure had leaped out and blasted the flower of
success, just as every petal had opened wide! Utter failure was the
portion of Wilkinsand the policeman on the far corner was watching
him in the most disconcerting way.
Squinting over there in the sunshine, the blue-coat's instinct was
telling him that there was something wrong about the trunk. He moved to
the other side of the lamp-post and stared on; and Just here his
sergeant appeared from the side street and the officer addressed him,
even pointing with his club at the taxi!
Faithful Wilkins's heart stopped! When an officer approaches and
asks one to open a trunk or bag, one opens it or goes up. Having opened
this one, it was almost a certainty that one would go up alsoand with
that one would go Mary Dalton, and in the evening papers one of the
most startling stories of the year would be featured.
We all of us have a peculiar way of seeing our own side of any given
case before examining the others; so it was with Wilkins. Wilkins saw
himself dismissed from what was really a very excellent, very
well-paid, very easy job; he saw Anthony cursing himself and his
stupidity and ordering him out of his sight forever!
Can't you start? he shot at his driver.
Well, I'm just sitting down, that person stated acidly.
Well, get her a-going and then turn around; don't go over there,
but go back up this block! And start! said Wilkins.
The cab started and turned, and he did not look behind. He had not
need for that; he could feel the official eyes boring through the back
of the cab and into himself; he could hear running feet; once he was
quite sure he heard the pounding of a club on the curb, which meant
that every officer in hearing would flock into sight. Wilkins, becoming
stony of countenance after a struggle, shut his teeth and sat back,
quite forgetting that Mary might welcome a breath or two of the outer
It was possible, after a little, if the police did not appear and
stop the machine, that he would order the cab into the country and
there release Mary, hat or no hatbut somehow Wilkins doubted whether
he would make that decision.
What he craved more than anything else just now was security behind
brick and stone wallslike the Lasande's.
* * * * *
Be it said that Hobart Hitchin had regained enough of his normal
senses to feel distinctly startled. His vision cleared considerably as
he looked at Theodore Dalton, crouching behind his table. He felt, in
spite of himself, that Dalton's grief was perfectly genuine, but the
utter mystery of the thing swept over him, too, and he leaned forward
What did you say, sir? Your son?
Thesethese! Dalton said, clutching the trousers. My son
Dick'shis fishing suit.
And your son, where is he supposed to be?
In the north woods, somewhere, although I haven't heard from him
for a week, Dalton choked; and then, being a powerful character, he
threw off the hideous numbness and straightened up. What did you say?
What were you trying to tell me? Where did you getthese?
From the dumbwaiter where
In the Hotel Lasande.
Very early this morning.
How did you come to
I saw a young man when he went into the house last night; I live
there, you know. I had reason to think that something happened to him
overnight, and this morning I managed to snatch this suit from the
dumbwaiter as it passed my door. Further
What was he doing there?
He came home last night with a gentleman you know, said Hobart
Hitchin. One Anthony Fry!
The liniment Fry? cried Theodore Dalton.
His gray face turned white and then purple. He rose and ran one hand
through his shaggy gray mop.
The liniment Fry, Hitchin said.
My boymy Dicky went home with that man?
A boy was introduced to me as David Prentiss.
Dalton's hands clutched his forehead for a moment and the grinding
of his teeth was audible.
You were sayingwhat were you saying about a trunk?
I said that the remains of the boy had been brought here by Fry's
personal servant, sir. I saw them taken into the side gate not ten
minutes ago and
Come! said Theodore Dalton.
He reached out and, gripping Hitchin's arm, decided that gentleman's
course for him. As Theodore Dalton strode to the back of the house and
to the back stairs, as he went straight down and into and through the
kitchen, Hobart Hitchin merely went along, partly in stumbles, partly
in little jumps; and so they came to the laundry and, nerving himself
until the veins stood out on his temples, Dalton faced his butler and
Beg pardon, sir? said Bates humbly.
The trunk which was brought here! Where is it?
Oh, that trunk, sir. It was took away again, Mr. Dalton. The person
that brought it said it was for Felice, the maid we dismissed this
For Felice? Dalton echoed.
Quite so, sir.
Why was it sent to Felice?
I couldn't say, sir, said Bates, stepping to the gate and opening
it. There it goes, sir, on the cab. Shall I send after it?
Dalton leaned heavily against Hobart Hitchin.
Well, I'm not sure as it was his voice, sir, but I think, standing
out here, I heard him tell the man to go back where they came from.
Followed quite a tableau.
Bates stared respectfully at his master. Hobart Hitchin, who had not
as yet had time to form a complete new set of theories, merely stood
and frowned. But although Theodore Dalton did not move, he did not seem
His face, in fact, mirrored the whole gamut of human emotions of the
darker sort; overwhelming sorrow was there at first, and then,
succeeding slowly, amazement and unbelief, and after them trembling
anger. Black fire shot from his deepset eyes, as they switched to
Hitchin; his lips became a ghastly white line; his mighty chest rose
and fell; and now he had taken Hobart Hitchin's arm again and led him
back to a dusky corridor.
You! said Dalton. I don't know who you are and why you came here;
but this I ask you, and if you don't answer truthfully, God help you!
Does that trunk, to your belief, contain the body of the boy you call
To my almost certain knowledge!
And he was murdered in the apartment of Anthony Fry?
He was, sir, and
Come! said Theodore Dalton, once more, and they returned to the
study in a series of stumbles and little jumps.
Once in the dark, handsome room Theodore Dalton walked straight to
the cabinet in the corner and, with a key, opened the topmost drawer.
He extracted therefrom a heavy automatic pistol and slipped out its
magazine. He opened a box of cartridges and filled the little box; and
when it had clicked into the handle of the automatic, and the pistol
itself was in his pocket.
There was a cab leaving the door when you came, he said quietly.
Did you dismiss it?
II believe so, said Hobart Hitchin, who as an actual fact liked
neither the sight of the weapon nor the sight of Dalton just now.
Bates! Dalton spoke into the little interior telephone. My car!
If you're going somewhere escaped Hobart Hitchin.
I am going to see Anthony Fry. You are going with me. You are going
to accuse him, in my presence, of the crime, said Theodore Dalton,
with the same ominous calm. And when you have accused him, I shall do
the rest! Sit down!
* * * * *
Anthony Fry, because there was more relief in him than flesh and
blood, leaned back in his pet chair and gazed at the ceiling, long,
steadily, happily. He would have liked to smoke, yet he declined to
make the effort which would break the delicious lassitude that
possessed him. He would have liked to sing, too, and clap Johnson
Boller on the back and assure him that all was well in the best
possible worldbut for a little it was enough to sneer smilingly at
Boller's bent head.
He, poor fool, fancied that all was over because his infernal wife
had threshed around a bit and gone off clutching poor little Mary's
hata funny thing in itself. Instead of getting up and cheering at his
prospective freedom from the matrimonial yoke, Johnson was groaning
there and clawing into his hair; and now, by the way, he was raising
his head and turning toward his old friend.
Anthony! Johnson Boller said faintly.
What is it?
You wouldn't pull a thing like that on me?
I certainly shall, if you ever try to tell the truth about Miss
But what did she ever do for me, to let her confounded reputation
wreck my life? All she ever did was to make a female ass of herself by
wearing pants and going to a prize fight and then listening to you. Why
should a thing like that bust up my home?
Anthony shrugged his shoulders.
It may not, said he.
It has! Johnson Boller said feverishly. And listen, Anthony! You
and I have to stand together, old man. The girl's out of the way, so
that clears your skirts for a while, but what about Hitchin? What if he
calls in the police this afternoon?
Anthony laughed; with Mary out of the way he was another man.
We'll let that take care of itself. For that matter, why not go
down and tell Hitchin the truth and show him what a fool he's making of
himself? He's a gentleman, I suppose; if we swear him to secrecy he's
not likely to talk.
And if we call him off, then we'll find Bee and tell her the truth,
too? Johnson Boller asked eagerly. She's a lady, Anthony. If we swear
her to secrecy, she'll never talkand maybe we could explain it to the
girl and have her verify what we say, hey?
Anthony actually yawned and stretched as he arose.
We'll settle Hitchin first, he smiled. Come along!
He lounged out of the flat and to the stairs, Boller hugging close
to his side. He yawned again as he pressed the buzzer of the Hitchin
apartment, and he even smiled condescendingly at the inscrutable
Japanese who answered.
Mr. Hitchin, said Anthony. Say that Mr. Fry and Mr. Boller wish
to see him, if you please.
The Japanese shook his head.
He no home!
Out? said Anthony in some astonishment.
Yes, sir, li'l while ago, the Oriental said. He go very quick.
And he will be backwhen?
Mr. Hitchin no say, sir! the Japanese sighed.
Therefore they turned back to the stairs; and as they came to the
foot of the flight Johnson Boller gripped his friend's arm suddenly and
looked whitely at him.
It's all over! he said.
The trunk! The trunk she went out in! Didn't he say something about
not sending out anything?
That has no connection with his going out! Anthony snapped,
although some of his insouciance fled.
Hasn't it, though? Well, it has every connection! He's chased
Wilkins and, long before this, he's called a cop and had him taken in!
The whole thing's over, Anthony. That trunk's in a police station now
and they've opened itand your Dalton man's daughter is behind the
bars as a suspicious character before this.
Anthony Fry's scowl turned black.
Can't you see me peaceful, without trying to smash it by babbling a
lot of rot like that? he demanded angrily. Wilkins must have the girl
inside her home by this time and
Why should you be peaceful and happy when my home's wrecked?
Johnson Boller asked hotly.
We will not discuss it out here, said his host, leading the way
Dismally he trailed through the door he had left so cheerfully a
moment ago. Johnson Boller trailed after him even more dismally, albeit
with some grim satisfaction at his altered mien.
We can sit down here and wait now, he stated. We don't have to do
anything more than that, Anthony. We can figure it all out. Either he
has had the trunk and Wilkins taken in, or he's just determined that
our guilt is cinched. If the former, all creation knows by this time
that Dalton's daughter was up to somethingqueer. If there's a general
alarm out for her, they'll recognize her when she comes out of that
trunk. On the other hand, if Hitchin has let the trunk go, he's having
warrants sworn out by this time and they're dusting off the seats in
the nearest patrol-wagon. Either Dalton gets you and probably me, too,
or the police get us. That's all that can happen and
Stop! Anthony barked. I don't care a rap what happens, so long as
the girl is not laid open to suspicion, and I don't believe Hitchin or
anybody else is going to contrive that, once Wilkins started to deliver
the trunk. That is my sole concern nowto shield her!
Having delivered with commendable sentiment, Anthony demonstrated
his entire calm by rising with a nervous jerk, by listening, and
finally by striding to the door of his apartment, which he opened.
Thereafter he stepped back suddenly, for with one searing glance at
him a woman had passed.
She was in the living-room even now, and smiling horribly at Johnson
Boller. She was, in a word, Johnson Boller's wife, and her black eyes
snapped more ominously than before.
Don't touch me! she was saying, as Johnson Boller approached with
hands outstretched. I've come back, but only to tell you!
To tell me that you've changed your mind, little pigeon? Johnson
Boller cried brokenly. You're going to let Pudgy-wudgy
Faugh! said the lady, and from her radiated the Spanish
grandmother and all the strain impliedblood lust, vengeance! No,
I've come to tell you that I mean to make that woman's name a scandal
and a byword from end of town to the other. Not some woman's
name, but the woman's name!
How can I do it? laughed the different Mrs. Boller. I've found
out who she is!
CHAPTER XV. Thick and Fast
However faint the appeal it made to Johnson Boller, Anthony's
statement had been the literal truthhis sole concern just now was the
shielding of Mary Dalton.
More and more, these last calmer minutes, the ghastly aspect of the
case as viewed from the woman's side had appealed to him. It is
entirely possible that a little real mental suffering had rendered
Anthony Fry less selfish and more considerate of the rest of the human
raceJohnson Boller always exceptedthan he had been for many years.
Whatever the cause, the weight of his own guilt was bearing down
harder and harder, and he was prepared to go to extreme lengths if
necessary in the way of keeping Mary's adventure an eternal secret.
But like many another plan and resolve of this bedeviled night and
morning, the latest had been blasted to flinders!
Beatrice Boller, standing there with Mary's hat still clutched tight
and partly broken, was not smiling the smile of a woman who fancied
herself on the right track. She smiled the smile of one who knew
exactly where she stood. Her lips curled now as she examined the worm
that had been her husband, and she perched on the edge of the
Unfortunate, isn't it, that you didn't pick some poor drab from the
streets? she asked, significantly and triumphantly. Unfortunate for
you and unfortunate for her!
Well, thiswell, this Johnson Boller tried.
Don't talk to me, please. I want to talk to youoh, not for my
sake or for your sake, to be sure. I don't know how much real man may
be left in either of you; not very much, I imagine. But if you do want
to save two innocent women from a good deal of embarrassment, you shall
have the chance.
She laughed again as she watched the effect of the cryptic
statement. She sat down, then, and having opened her hand-bag and drawn
therefrom a little slip of paper, she resumed her inspection of the
You don't understand at all, do you? Well, you shall! Your lady
friend made one mistake, gentlemen. Any young woman off on that sort of
adventure should be cautious enough to destroy marks of identification.
This hat, as it happens, came from Mme. Altier, just uptown.
The little blonde? escaped from Johnson Boller.
The little blonde, sneered his wife. The little blonde is quite a
friend of mine; I lent her the money that started her in business up
this way, in fact, and I've been buying hats there for five years.
Therefore, I went and interviewed the little blonde, and her memory and
her methods of bookkeeping are alike commendable. She might not have
told another woman, but she was very glad to tell me.
Beatrice gazed at the slip briefly.
Mrs. Henry Wales! she said very suddenly indeed, and sent her eyes
straight through both of them at once.
Innocent for once, Anthony and Johnson Boller merely frowned at
Beatrice, and after a little she shrugged her shoulders.
Not Mrs. Henry Wales, evidently, she mused. Very well; I was
right about her. I've met her, I think, and she seemed a little bit too
nice for that sort of thing. ErLaura Cathcart!
Once more the word was hurled straight into them. Once more Anthony
and his old friend stared innocentlybut they did a little more this
time. They turned and stared at one another, and all the air between
them vibrated with a wordless message!
Beatrice had made one grave tactical error in not reading the right
name first; Anthony and his friend understood now and were quite
prepared for anythingand it seemed almost as if Beatrice sensed the
message, for she frowned a little as she said:
Blankly, innocently as babes unborn, and still not too innocently
withal, Anthony and Johnson Boller stared back, and the latter even had
assurance enough to say:
What's the idea, Bee? Is it a roll-call?
It is the names of the three women in New York who have bought that
particular style of hat from Sarah, said Mrs. Boller. She made up
just three, as is her custom, and when they were sold she made no more.
So that in spite of your extreme wonder at hearing the names, and
although I had rather hoped to guess which one it might be, one of that
trio was in this flat last night. Which one?
Johnson Boller shook his head vigorously.
None of 'em! he said flatly.
What do you say? Beatrice asked Anthony.
Madam, I decline to say anything whatever! Anthony said stiffly.
Really? smiled Beatrice, and gazed at them pensively for a little
while. I do not know intimately any of these ladies. They have,
doubtless, a husband and fathers and, I hope, a few big brothers, too,
to take care of them properly. And since they have, I may as well tell
you just what I mean to do. I'm going to Mrs. Wales first.
It produced no visible shock.
I'm going to accuse her, in so many words, of passing last night in
this apartment, and I'll say you confessed! pursued Beatrice. Perhaps
she can clear herself by showing me the duplicate of this hat; perhaps
she cannot. In any event, it seems probable that her husband and the
rest of her male relatives will make a point of coming here and beating
you two to a jelly.
It did seem rather likely, and Johnson Boller glanced at his old
friend and received no aid at all.
Unless she confesses, Miss Cathcart receives the next call, said
Johnson's wife. The procedure will be the same; the results to you, I
sincerely hope, will be the same. After that, if necessary, I shall go
to the Dalton woman's home and repeat the performance, and doubtless
her father and her brothers will
Say! Do you want to have us killed? Johnson Boller gasped.
Yes! hissed the Spanish strain in Beatrice. Well?
Anthony shook his head quietly.
None of the ladies you have mentioned he began.
One of them was here, and I'll soon know which one! Beatrice
corrected quickly. Do you wish to save the other two?
Anthony said nothing.
Nope! Johnson Boller said doggedly.
Beatrice rose slowly and looked them over.
Do you know, said she, all withering contempt, I had been fool
enough to fancy that there was man enough in one or the other of you to
spare the innocent women a very distressing quarter of an hour. Even if
that failed, I had fancied that one or the other would have sufficient
intelligence to avoid a thrashing if possible. I was wrong! There isn't
a spark of manhood or an ounce of brain matter in either of youand to
think that I married you!
She had risen. She was getting ready to go upon her fell mission;
and the calm contempt slid away from Anthony and cold terror crawled up
his spinal column. Just when he had fondly imagined that all was well,
Beatrice had come and proved that all was anything else in the world!
Just when he had fancied that Mary was safe at home and, with her
doubtless capable maid, was devising a convincing tale to account for
her absence, Beatrice must needs appear and show that, tale or no tale,
Mary was to be accused.
And there wasn't a flaw in her program, by the way. She held the hat
as a man might cling to a straw in mid-ocean; and the lady who could
show a similar hat would clear herself and then start her male
relatives after Anthony; and the lady who could not show a similar
Obviously the fine resolve he had made was to avail little enough,
but Anthony could think of no way of staying the lady. Physical force
leaped up as a possibility in his tortured mind and leaped out again as
One suggestion of that sort of thing and instinct told him that
Beatrice, in her present unlovely mood, would scream until the rafters
echoed, if they happened to have rafters in the Hotel Lasande. Moral
suasion, honeyed talk were still farther from the possibilities. No,
Beatrice would have to go!
She was ready now. Habit superseding circumstances, Beatrice had
stepped to the mirror and tucked up a few stray locks of hair. The
little hat was under her arm, and the arm had shut down tight on it.
You two curs! Beatrice said, by way of farewell, and turned
away from them with a sweep.
It was no apartment in which to do what one expected to do.
Beatrice, one step taken, stopped short. Out at the door some one was
hammering in a way oddly familiar. Anthony, rising again, hurried to
answer the summonsand the door was hardly open when young Robert
Vining hurtled in and gripped him by both arms.
It's no use, Anthony! he gasped. There's not a trace of her yet!
She's gone! She's gone! cried Robert, breaking into his
familiar refrain. I've just had the house on the wire, and there's no
news of her at all as yet. I've had police headquarters on the wire,
and they haven't heard or seen a thing. Miriamthat's one of her
chumshas just finished going over Bellevue, and there's no sign of
Mary down there!
By now they were in the living-room, and Beatrice, somewhat startled
at the sign of a being in agony equal to her own stood aside.
She's gone! said Robert Vining. And I've been around to
Helène'sthat's another of her chums, Anthonyand she's going to
telephone all the girls. That takes that off my hands and leaves me
free to go over all the hospitals that haven't been covered yet. That's
what brings me here, old man. You'll have to come with me.
Very well! Anthony said swiftly. We'll start now.
Because I haven't got the nerve to do it alone! Robert cried.
Isomebody has to go to the Morgue, too! And suppose we should go
down thereI was there just once and I had the horrors for a
monthsuppose we should go down there and find her, Anthony, all
Hush! said Anthony. Don't go into the possibilities; there's a
lady present, Bob.
Vining almost came to earth for a moment.
To be sure. Mrs. BollerMr. Robert Vining.
He spoke directly at her, so that Robert, out of his emotional fog,
gained an idea of her location, and turned dizzily toward her. There
was upon his countenance a strained, heart-broken, half-apologetic
smile as he faced Beatrice Boller. He bowed, too, perfunctorily.
Then Robert raised his stricken eyes.
And as he raised them, a great shock ran through Robert, and after
it he stiffened. His eyes popped, as if he could not quite believe what
he saw, and his body swayed forward. Robert, with a hoarse, incoherent
scream, ran straight at Beatrice Boller and snatched away the hat from
under her arm.
That's Mary's! That's Mary's! he cried hysterically. That's
Mary's hat, because I was with her the day she bought it, and I'd know
it among ten thousand hats! Yes, and it's torn and brokenit's all
smashed on this side!
Greenish white, jaw sagging, Robert looked from one to the other of
Youyou're afraid to tell me! said he. Shethere was an
accident! I can see that by the hat. There was an accident and she was
hurt andwhere is she now? Where is she now? Good God! Is shedead?
She isn't dead, Anthony said queerly, because he had been looking
at Beatrice and feeling his flesh crawl as he looked.
Then where is Mary? Why don't you tell me about it? Robert stormed
on. What's the matter? Is she badly hurt? Doesn't she want me? Hasn't
she tried to send for me? And whirling upon Beatrice, the unfortunate
young man threw out his hands and cried: You tell me, if they will
not! What has happened to her? Where did you get the hat?
Normally, Beatrice Boller was the very last mortal in the world to
inflict pain upon a fellow-being; but the normal Beatrice was far away
As Anthony noted with failing heart, it was a big moment for the
outraged creature before Robert Vining, for she was about to make
another of the accursed sex to suffer. It did not seem humanly possible
that she could communicate her personal view of Mary to Robert; but
certainly Beatrice was accomplishing a very dramatic pause, and in it
her lips drew back and showed her beautiful teeth.
The young lady is a friend of yours, too? she asked very sweetly.
Friend! cried Robert cried. She's the girl I'm going to marry!
Where is she, madam? Can't you tell me what has happened?
Beatrice's laugh was blood-curdling.
Mrs. Boller! Anthony cried. I protest
Do you really? Beatrice smiled and turned directly to Robert. So
you're going to marry her?
Or perhaps you're not! Mrs. Boller mused, You think her a very
worthy young woman?
Robert looked blankly at her.
But she is not, Beatrice said softly. And you look like a decent
sort, and however much it may hurt for a little, you shall have the
truth. You asked me where I found this hat. Well, it was in the bedroom
at the end of that corridorMr. Boller's room!
She waited vainly for a little, because Robert simply did not
comprehend. He frowned at Beatrice and then shook his head.
Whatwhat do you say?
It had been there all night, Mr. Vining, Beatrice purred on. So
Marymy Mary? Mary Dalton? Robert gasped.
But thatthat's all damnedpardon me!nonsense! That
He turned on Anthony; and then, quickly as he had turned, he gasped
and stared with burning eyes.
View him as one chose, there was nothing about Anthony to indicate
that it was nonsense. He was biting his lips; his eyes were upon the
floor; had he rehearsed the thing for months he could not possibly have
looked more guilty.
Whywhy choked Robert Vining.
Beatrice laid a slender hand on his arm.
Come with me, she said quickly. Come and see her bag and her
little toilet case and several other of her things. Perhaps you'll
recognize them, too, and they'll convince you that she really settled
down here for a visit. Come!
As a man in a dreadful dream, Robert Vining followed her blindly
into the corridor and out of sight. Johnson Boller smiled a demon smile
and thrust his hands into his trouser-pockets.
Here's where he gets his! he stated. Anthony could
no more than speak.
Thatthat woman! he contrived. What an absolutely merciless
Huh? Bee? the remarkable Boller said sharply. She's all right;
she's acting according to her own lights, isn't she? Why the devil
shouldn't Vining suffer, too? D'ye think I'm the only man in the world
that has to suffer?
I think you're in luck if she divorces you! Anthony stated
feelingly. A woman capable of that is capable of anything!
Johnson Boller stayed the angry words upon his lips and smiled
grimly. More, after a moment he thrust out his hand.
I guess it doesn't matter much what you think now, Anthony, said
Good-by, old man! You're going to leave this world in about three
minutes, you knowjust as soon as he's convinced and able to act
again, Anthony. So long I'll be sorry to think of you as
missingsometimes, I suppose, but not when I think what you've put
over on me.
Anthony laughed viciously.
Don't use up all your sympathy, he said. You may need a little
for yourself, Johnson. The things are in what's supposed to be your
room, you know.
What? gasped Johnson Boller. That's true! That
Out at the entrance, a key was scraping in the latch; and when it
had scraped for the second time Anthony smiled forlornly.
Wilkins, he said. Back to report that the girl's safe at
homewhatever good that may do now. Is that you, Wilkins?
That'sthat's me, sir! Wilkins puffed.
And the door closed and in the foyer bumpbumpbump indicated that
Wilkins was carrying something, a trunk one might almost have thought
from the sound. Rather red, gleaming perspiration that had not all come
from exertion, Wilkins appeared, moved into the room, gazed feelingly
at his master, was about to speak and then caught the sound of voices
from David's room.
Thethe parties couldn't attend to the trunk to-day! said
Sheisn't in there? Anthony whispered.
I have no reason to think otherwise, sir, said the faithful one.
You didn't leave her?
There was no one to leave her with, sir, and I was ordered out with
the trunk, Wilkins said, smiling wanly. There wasn't nowhere to come
but here, sir, with the police after me.
From down the corridor issued
Yes! I'mHeaven help meI'm convinced!
I'll be taking her into your room, sir, Wilkins said hastily. She
must be needing a breath of air by this time, poor young lady!
Another nightmare figure, he lumbered across the living-room and
into Anthony's chamber; and regardless of possible consequences Anthony
followed and snatched open the trunk.
Mary had not expired. Her face was decidedly red and her eyes rather
bewildered, but she struggled out with Anthony's assistance, breathed
deeply several times, glanced at her hair in the mirror and then, being
a thoroughly good sport, Mary even managed a small, wretched laugh.
Back again! she said simply. They'd discharged Felice.
Was therenobody else? Anthony asked.
Dorothy, our little parlor maid, would have done, I suppose, but
Wilkins didn't know about her, said the girl, facing him. It's pretty
awful, isn't it?
Even now she had not lost her nerve! The chivalrous something in
Anthony welled up more strongly than ever; the precise, rather
old-maidish quality of his expression vanished altogetherand for the
very first time Mary almost liked him.
It's very awful, indeed, he said quickly. More awful than you
imagine, butwe'll try to believe that all is not lost even now. One
way or another, I'll get you out of it, Miss Mary, if I have to lie my
soul into perdition. I don't know how at the moment, but the way will
indicate itself; I decline to believe anything else! You'll have to
stay here and keep your ears wide open and take your cue from whatever
I'm saying. I hope
Psst! said Johnson Boller.
Anthony left the room with a motion that was more twitch than
anything else, and he left it none too soon. The shock, or the first of
it, was over; Robert Vining was coming back to them, not like a nice
young man, but rather like a Kansas cyclone! Three thuds in the
corridor, and he appeared before them.
Robert's countenance was gray-white; his white lips, parted a
little, seemed to be stretched over his teeth; his eyes blazed blue
fire! And behind Robertand be it confessed that there was a certain
indefinite atmosphere of fright about herBeatrice smiled.
So youyouyou beastly scoundrel! Robert began, his hands
working as he looked straight at Johnson Boller and ignored the very
existence of Anthony Fry. I don't know whether a thing like you can
pray, but if you can, pray quick!
Me? Johnson Boller gulped.
Robert laughed dreadfully.
Don't waste your time gaping! he said, thickly. Pray if you want
to, because you're going to die! D'ye hear? I'm going to choke out your
nasty life as I'd choke the life out of a mad dog.
Not my life! Johnson Boller protested, with pale lips, as he
pointed at Anthony. He
Whatever he may have had to do with luring her here I can settle
with him afterward! Robert cried. My concern is with you; and
if you want to say anything, hurry about it. I can't hold myself more
than another second or two!
By way of proving it, he stalked down upon Johnson Bollernot
rapidly, but with a deadly slowness and deliberation which suggested
the tiger coming down upon its prey. His flaring eyes had fascinated
the victim, too, for Johnson Boller could not move a muscle. Once he
tried to smile a farewell at Beatrice; his eyes would not remain away
from Robert even long enough for that. Once he tried to look at
Anthony, but it was quite useless.
And from that ominous region of the doorway came Wilkins's warm
Well, that's all right, gentlemen, but he's busy now.
He's not too busy to see me, said an entirely strange voice, and
heavy steps passed by Wilkins.
Into the large room which had already seen so much suffering, the
distinctly scared person of Hobart Hitchin was propelled by a large,
hairy hand. The owner of the hand glanced at him for an instant; and
then for five terrific seconds stared at Anthony Fry, who after the
first violent start had turned immobile as Johnson Boller himself.
Mr.what's your name?Hitchin! Dalton barked.
Hobart Hitchin straightened up with an effort.
Fry, said he, weerthat is, I accuse you of theahmurder of
Theodore Dalton's only son, Richard, alias David Prentiss!
CHAPTER XVI. The Lie
Even Robert Vining halted his death march. A man of but one idea in
the world just a second ago, he jerked about suddenly and cried:
Dalton a strong man half-benumbed by mental agony, turned slowly
Are youhere, too, Robert? he muttered. Yes, Dicky!
And slowly he turned back to Anthony and, slowly also, he drew forth
the automatic in all its steely-blue nastiness.
Anthony Fry merely shook his head. The mood that was come upon him
now passed any explanation; he was neither frightened nor excited. He
heard the latest absurd accusation without even forming an opinion on
it. Either he had passed the point where one may feel the sensation of
astonishment or infinite desperation had blessed him with a calm past
any understanding. He did not know which and he did not care; it was
enough that he could look straight at Dalton and not even change color!
I have no idea what you're talking about, Dalton, he said quietly.
Beatrice leaped into action.
Dalton! she cried. Mary Dalton's father?
What? Dalton, momentarily sidetracked, whirled upon her. You've
heard something from Mary, madam? You know
I know all about Mary! said Beatrice Boller.
Madam! Anthony broke in. I forbid you to say one word of your
ridiculous and unjustified
Beatrice simply ignored his presence and favored Theodore Dalton
with her unspeakable smile.
Mary Dalton passed the night in this apartment, she said quickly.
Mary Dalton cried, just as Robert hurried to his side and
clutched his arm.
They say she was here! he panted. The woman says so, and Mary's
hatsee! She's holding it even now! And Mary's bag is in a room there,
and her comb and brush and two of her handkerchiefs and
But it wasn't a woman, whatever she's left! Hobart Hitchin
contributed. It was a boy, about twenty or twenty-twoa boy Fry
introduced to me as David Prentiss, and who was Dalton's son. Look! We
have his trousers, and Dalton has identified them as his son's!
Dalton's attention was still upon Beatrice.
You say thatthat my daughter
I say that she was here and that she left suddenly when I came, so
suddenly that she hadn't even time to take her hat! said Boller's
charming wife. Where she is now I don't know; not in this apartment
because I've searched it; probably somewhere else in the house, because
she would be unlikely to leave without a hat. But she was here, and if
you doubt it, ask those men!
Slowly, Dalton turned back to Anthony Fry. One glance he sent down
at the automatic and his finger settled over the trigger.
And still the calm held Anthony.
It was one of the most curious things he had ever experienced, that
calm, and more curious than the calm itself was the astounding capacity
for thought that had come to his tired brain. Except for this last
inexplicable accusation, which he discarded, he was thinking lucidly,
and swiftly and, by the way, along a single line. Mary was all that
mattered just now.
And to some extent, if Fate remained kind, he saw his way to saving
Mary, should the girl have sense enough to remain quiet in his room. He
smiled, did Anthony, and looked so confidently, so directly at Dalton
that the latter scowled in bewilderment.
I know nothing whatever about your son, Dalton, said he. I did
not even know that you had a son. Are you sure he is not at home?
He has not been at home for weeks, Hitchin put in. That's what
puzzles us; how did you get him to the city?
From what point?
Hillcombe, in the Adirondacks, Dalton said. He
Is it possible to get Hillcombe on the long distance?
The unfathomable self-possession made its own impression on Dalton.
Very likely, he muttered.
Then if you will give my man the number or the name of the hotel,
or whatever it may be, he will put in the call, said Anthony Fry. Let
us hope that you'll be able to talk to your son shortly. If he doesn't
answer, wire him, Anthony pursued, impatiently. That is the very best
I can suggest.
Theodore Dalton's hand passed through his hair, pausing to clutch it
for a moment; Wilkins, waiting attentively, met his eye and Dalton,
having cleared his dry throat, mumbled the name of a camp and turned
back to Anthony.
That remarkable figure was quite erect and merely waiting for a
chance to speak again. So far as the general theme was concerned, his
mind was fairly well settled; it meant certain ruin for him, if Dalton
was kind enough to believe; it was likely enough to mean even criminal
prosecution, but it bade fair to save Mary. Anthony even smiled
composedly as he tacked on new details; thus does suffering refine us!
Apparently, several of them were about to speak at once. Anthony
held up his lean, commanding hand for silence.
One moment, please! said the amazing Anthony. There is no cause
for any further excitement, any further speculation. The thing has gone
too far now; it has passed beyond me andI have failed.
What? Robert rasped.
Anthony drew a deep breath.
Will you all be seated? he asked. II wish to confess the
You mean that you Dalton exploded.
I mean that nobody has been injured, to the best of my knowledge,
and that your daughter Mary is perfectly safe, Anthony smiled sadly.
Put the gun away, Dalton, and hear me through at least. Later on, if
you feel inclined to use it, I don't know that I shall object greatly.
I quite understand what is likely to happen to me when you have heard
what I have to tell andin spite of that the whole affair seems to
have tangled itself so terribly that there is nothing to do but tell
He himself was sitting behind the table now, and he certainly
claimed their attention. Dalton perched on the edge of a chair; Robert
took one of its arms. Beatrice seemed at first unwilling to leave the
center of the stage, but presently she, too, was seatedand Johnson
Boller shuffled to a chair and went into it quite limply, gazing at
Anthony and breathing hard.
Unless Anthony was lying, he meant to tell the truth; and while some
of those present might believe the truth, Beatrice Boller was not among
I don't know, Dalton, Anthony began evenly, that I have anything
to say in extenuation of what I have done. Evidently I lost my head,
even to the point of downright insanity; some of us do that
occasionally, you know. Brooding over the business was responsible, I
suppose. Your Celestial Oil has been cutting pretty heavily into
Imperial Liniment this last year.
Humph! said Dalton.
Cutting in so heavily that whatever efforts I have been able to put
forth have been of no avail whatever, Anthony pursued. Last weekall
day last Saturday, in factI went over the year's business and it
fairly maddened me to see the falling off. I spent Sunday thinking and
I am frank to say, Dalton, that by Sunday night I was all but ready to
murder you. Toward midnight I conceived what seemed to be a means of
forcing you into some sort of mutual contract, by which each of us
could do business with the assurance that the other wasn't coming over
to take away what didn't belong to him.
You get away with a thing like that? Dalton demanded.
It was a wild notion, Anthony sighed. I knew that talking was
useless, I knew that fighting you openly was equally useless, because
once I became too conspicuous I knew that you'd sail in and wreck me.
At the same time something had to be done and that in mighty short
order, or Fry's Imperial was likely to die a natural death. Therefore,
Dalton, I perfected the scheme of kidnaping your daughter and holding
her until you'd come to terms.
Rest easy! Mr. Fry smiled. Part of it succeeded, but she hasn't
been injured and I ask you to believe, at least, that I never had any
idea of injuring her. What I did mean to do was to threaten you,
through a third person I met most unfortunately and who is, not to put
too fine a point upon it, one of the slimiest crooked lawyers in the
worldwhat I meant to do was to make you understand that, unless you
came to terms, the girl would be killed!
If the details interest you I'll confess that I had a note sent to
the girl last evening, by a messenger who succeeded in telephoning her
and having her meet him just outside your home. The note informed Miss
Dalton that Vining hereoh, sit still, Vining, you may settle with me
when I've finishedthat Vining here was engaged, if not actually
married, to another girl. It was a very convincing note indeed, and the
messenger was instructed to tell Miss Dalton, should the note make its
impression, that he would take her to a place where she would be able
to observe with her own eyes the faithlessness of one she was on the
point of trusting with her whole life!
Well, by the holy Robert began.
Every little twist and turn of this story I had perfected
beforehand; I could not see the possibility of a slip and there was no
slip. It was made plain to Miss Dalton that, if she wished to see
Robert under the unpleasant conditions, she would have to attire
herself as a man, for she was likely to spend some time at least in the
back room of a saloon. My messenger even took her a wig I had provided
for the purpose, and she was informed that, if she wished to take along
her own proper clothing, it would be quite possible to return in that.
Utter admiration possessed Johnson Boller; yet Beatrice, as he knew,
was watching him narrowly.
Youyou contemptible scoundrel! Johnson Boller said pleasantly.
Him, too, Anthony ignored.
She took the bait, Dalton, just as I had planned. The man brought
her to me at a pointeroutside this hotel, and she was dressed in
her brother's clothing, as it appears now. It was agreed between us
that she should take the name of David Prentiss for the evening, and
under that name she was introduced to Hitchin here. After that she was
brought to this apartment.
Anthony paused and sighed heavily and impressively, an erring man
borne down by his guilt.
Miss Dalton, even as a boy, did not look very much like a boy, he
pursued. It seemed better to me that she change to her own clothes,
and I requested her to do so, on some pretext which, I am frank to say,
slips my mind at the moment. She came into this room afterward and, as
I had planned, a little luncheon was waiting for us. She drank a cup of
coffee andit had been drugged.
Where was Johnson Boller all this time? Beatrice asked.
Although Johnson Boller held his breath, Anthony Fry batted never an
eyelash. Dignified, austere exponent of the rock-ribbed truth that he
had once been, all his sails were set now and the rudder lashed in
place for the sinful course. It would have been a downright effort just
then for Anthony to have told the truth about anything whatever.
Johnson never came until an hour after it was over, he said. He
went to a prize fight, Mrs. Boller, and after that met some out-of-town
people in the woolen trade and worked until nearly two this morning
winding up a contract.
D'ye see? said Johnson Boller, when his breath came back. D'ye
see? You had me down for everything that was worst in the world, kid,
and now you hear the truth.
All unaware was Anthony Fry of the sharp start of Hobart Hitchin.
All unaware was he that the crime-student, rousing from his partially
scared state, had smiled suddenly. All unaware, in fact, was Anthony,
of the terrible slip he had just made.
That is almost all of the story, he said, with a miserable little
smile at Dalton. The young lady was taken, in an automobile,
half-stupefied, toa certain town in New Jersey, Dalton. She is
unharmed and has been unharmed; that at least I am able to guarantee
And she's there now? Dalton cried.
She is there now and
That I will not tell you, because it will involve several poor
devils I've hired in connection with this mad affair, said Anthony.
But if you will permit me, I will go for the young lady
myselfstipulating only that I shall not be followedand I will
return her to your house before three o'clock this afternoon. After
that, Dalton, said Anthony, drawing himself up, I'm willing to take
my medicine. I know that it's coming and I'm willing
You'll get it, never fear, snarled Mary's father. But about Mary!
Tell me the name of this town or
I shall tell you nothing whatever! Anthony said firmly. I shall
tell you only that, under the conditions I have named, I will very
gladly go to Jersey and get her.
You're sure she's there now? Robert said hoarsely.
I am absolutely sure, said Anthony, that she is now in New Jersey
And now, with Dalton's murderous impulses stilled at least, with
many things fairly well explained and new minutiæ coming into his head
every second should this, that or the other question be asked, just as
Anthony leaned back, two new quantities must needs enter. The first was
Hobart Hitchin. The second was a strong breeze, which always came
through the living-room when Wilkins left open the door and the window
of his pantry.
Fry, said the crime-student, and if a snake owned a voice it would
be as slithery and oily as the voice of Hobart Hitchin just then, Fry,
you say that Boller came in several hours after you came in last night?
Didn't I see you both downstairs?
Eh? Anthony said.
And Fry, the reptilian voice added, you haven't told us what was
in the trunk you sent to Dalton's house, you know.
Anthony straightened up again. Two seconds were passed, and still he
had not the answer; three, and he was still silent; four, and he had
not yet spoken. And the playful breeze saved him all the trouble of
speaking. The latch of Anthony's bedroom door was not caught, and the
breeze, striking it squarely, sent it open suddenly and cleanly as if
jerked back by a wire!
And leaning forward in her chair, even now listening intently, Mary
Dalton was revealed!
Anthony Fry did not move; this was because he could not. But with a
single motion Theodore Dalton and Robert Vining, Johnson Boller and
Johnson Boller's wife, were on their feet and staring at her. With a
single plunge, Dalton and Vining went forward, and the former winning,
he snatched Mary to him and wrapped the great arms around her, mouthing
and mumbling and shouting all at once!
Still Anthony did not move. He had not moved when, through the swirl
that was before his eyes, Mary and her father came into the room. The
girl had disengaged herself and she was rather paleah, and she was
speaking to her father.
Dad, she said very quietly, have I ever told you a lie?
You'd be no daughter of mine if you had, Dalton said simply.
Then what happened is just this: I wanted to go to that fight last
night and Bob wouldn't take me. He was so awfully uppish about it that
I decided to go myself; I like a good fight, you know. I didn't dare go
as a girl, so I put on Dicky's fishing suitthe old oneand sneaked
out the back door, after you thought I was in bed. Then I got a
messenger boy and managed to find a ticket for the fight. And I went,
said Mary, and I happened to sit next to Mr. Fry.
You went alone to a prize fight? her father gasped.
It was horribly tame, said Mary, but some men started a fight
behind us, because Mr. Fry spoke to me, I think, and that wasn't tame
at all. For a minute it scared my wits out, because I thought we were
all going to be arrested. So when Mr. Fry and Mr. Boller decided to
escape in a taxicab, I was mighty glad to go with them. After that Mr.
Fryturned queer, Mary dimpled. He thought I was a boy and he wanted
to offer me the opportunity of a lifetime.
I don't know just what it meant, but I was curious enough to come
up here and listen; and when I didn't appreciate what he was offering,
Mr. Fry got mad. He told me he'd keep me here until I did, so II just
went to bed and counted on getting out overnight, somehow. I tried it
and I missed fire, and this morning he discovered that I was a girl.
That's the whole story; we've all been trying to get me out of here
ever sinceand I'm still here!
But the trunk Hobart Hitchin put in doggedly.
I was in the trunk, said Mary. We thought I could get to Felice's
room that way, but Felice was gone, so Wilkins brought me back. She
looked at her father steadily and almost confidently. That weird tale
about having me drugged was just to save me, dad, and maybe if the door
hadn't blown open I'd have been home about three and swearing to it.
That's all. Mr. FryMr. Boller, toohave been too nice for words,
concluded Mary, stretching a point. There isn't a thing to blame them
forand I never could have believed that Mr. Fry was capable of a
lovely lie like that.
Since seven that morning, at which time Mary's absence had been
discovered, Theodore Dalton had been breathing in terrible, spasmodic
gasps. Now, as he faced Anthony, he breathed deeplybreathed deeply
againand turned Anthony's tottering world quite upside down by
suddenly thrusting out his hand.
Well, by gad, Fry! he bellowed. I knew you were crazy, but I
never suspected you were man enough for that! I'd swallowed that tale
almost whole and I'd made up my mind to wipe you and your bottled mess
off the map together.
I know, said Anthony.
But if there's one thing that hits me right where I live,
vociferated Dalton, it's a man who will chuck his own every earthly
interest aside to save a woman's name andput it there, Fry! You're a
A little uncertainly, because he was dazed and dizzy, Anthony
grasped the hairy hand. It was not so, because it was impossible,
buthe and Dalton were friends!
Beatrice was within a yard of her husband.
Then there waswas nothing she faltered.
There was nothing to get excited aboutno, Johnson Boller said
stiffly. Not at any time.
Pudgy! Beatrice said chokily, because her volatile nature was
whizzing breathlessly down from the exalted murder-state to the depths
Well? What? Johnson Boller said coldly.
Pudgy-wudgy, can you ever forgive me? Beatrice cried, burying her
head on his shoulder.
I don't know, Johnson Boller said frigidly, and did not even put
an arm around her. I don't know, Beatrice. You have wounded me more
deeply this day than I have ever been wounded in all my life before. I
shall try in time to forgive you, butI do not know.
* * * * *
They were all gone now, all but Anthony and his old friend, Johnson
It was in fact nearly noon, for with the tension removed Mary had
gone into the details of last night; and after a little even Robert
Vining had laughed. He at least knew Anthony Fry and he believed
Johnson Boller to be one of the most harmless fat men in existence, so
that when he had heard it all even Robert fell to chuckling.
And now they were gone with Mary, leaving behind a conviction in
Anthony's bosom that Mary was really a very charming young girl;
leaving an impression, too, that, could twenty years have been swept
from his forty-five, he might even have undertaken to win her away from
Robert! This last impression was transitory in the extreme, however; it
endured for perhaps forty-five seconds.
Hobart Hitchin was gone; he had vanished somewhere about the middle
of the session, leaving Richard's trousers, and for a long time nobody
even noticed that he was among the missing. To the best of Johnson
Boller's memory, he left just after Richard answered the long distance
call and assured his father that all was well.
Beatrice was gone, too. She had left all wreathed in smiles, since
the idiot that was her husband could not maintain his chilliness for
more than five minutes. In a dusky corner, Johnson and his cyclonic
lady had kissed eighteen times, lingeringly, and then she had left him
to pack up and follow, while she went personally to the
five-thousand-dollar apartment to prepare the things he most liked for
And now Johnson Boller had packed the grip, while Anthony lounged,
tired out, weak in knees and hands, trembling every now and then and
gazing into the blue cigar smoke above him.
The next time I come to stay with you I'm going to bring a
chaperon, Boller mused.
You came pretty near wrecking my home that time, Anthony.
Pah! snarled Anthony.
Johnson Boller pursued the strain no further. Instead, with a shrug
of the shoulders, he picked up a book from the top of the case and
turned its pages idly. After which he smiled suddenly and said, with
the utmost alertness.
You have a lot of poetry, haven't you?
I'm fond of it, said Anthony, absently.
Here's a pretty little thing, Johnson Boller pursued in his very
gentlest voice. This is awful pretty. Listen:
Master of human destinies am I;
Fame, love and fortune on
Here he ceased abruptly. He shrieked gleefully, did Johnson Boller,
and ducked almost down to the floor.
This was as well, because Anthony's little blue vase, for which he
had paid sixty dollars in Canton, had splintered on the wall, just
where Johnson Boller's head had been!