The Madness of May
by Meredith Nicholson
Billy Deering let himself into his father's house near Radford
Hills, Westchester County, and with a nod to Briggs, who came into the
hall to take his hat and coat, began turning over the letters that lay
on the table.
Mr. Hood has arrived, sir, the servant announced. I put him in
the south guest-room.
Deering lifted his head with a jerk. Hoodwhat Hood?
Mr. Hood is all I know, sir. He said he was expectedyou had asked
him for the night. If there's a mistake
Deering reached for his hat and coat, which Briggs still held. His
face whitened, and the outstretched hand shook visibly. Briggs eyed him
with grave concern, then took a step toward the stairway.
If you wish, sir
Never mind, Briggs, Deering snapped. It's all right. I'd
forgotten I had a guest coming; that's all.
He opened a letter with assumed carelessness and held it before his
eyes until the door closed upon Briggs. Then his jaws tightened. He
struck his hands together and mounted the steps doggedly, as though
prepared for a disagreeable encounter.
All the way out on the train he had feared that this might happen.
The long arm of the law was already clutching at his collar, but he had
not reckoned with this quick retribution. The presence of the unknown
man in the house could be explained on no other hypothesis than the
discovery of his theft of two hundred thousand dollars in gilt-edged
bonds from the banking-house of Deering, Gaylord &Co. It only remained
for him to kill himself and escape from the shame that would follow
exposure. He must do this at once, but first he would see who had been
sent to apprehend him. Hood was an unfamiliar name; he had never known
a Hood anywhere, he was confident of that.
The house was ominously quiet. Deering paused when he reached his
own room, glanced down the hall, then opened the door softly, and fell
back with a gasp before the blaze of lights. There, lost in the
recesses of a comfortable chair, with his legs thrown across the
mahogany table, sat a man he had never seen before.
Ah, Deering; very glad you've come, murmured the stranger,
glancing up unhurriedly from his perusal of a newspaper.
He had evidently been reading for some time, as the floor was
littered with papers. At this instant something in the page before him
caught his attention and he deftly extracted a quarter of a column of
text, pinched it with the scissors' points and dropped it on a pile of
similar cuttings on the edge of the table.
Just a moment! he remarked in the tone of a man tolerant of
interruptions, and do pardon me for mussing up your room. I liked it
better here than in the pink room your man gave meno place there to
put your legs! Creature of habit; can't rest without sticking my feet
He opened a fresh newspaper and ran his eyes over the first page
with the trained glance of an expert exchange reader.
The Minneapolis papers are usually worthless for my purposes, and
yet occasionally they print something I wouldn't miss. I'm the best
friend the 'buy your home paper' man has, he ran on musingly, skimming
the page and ignoring Deering, who continued to stare in stupefied
amazement from the doorway. Ah!
The scissors flashed and the unknown added another item to his
That's all, he remarked with a sigh. He dropped his feet to the
floor, rose, and lazily stretched himself.
Tall, compactly built, a face weather-beaten where the flesh showed
above a close-clipped brownish beard, and hair, slightly gray, brushed
back smoothly from a broad foreheadthese items Deering noted swiftly
as he dragged himself across the threshold.
Really, a day like this would put soul into a gargoyle, the
stranger remarked, brushing the paper-shavings from his trousers.
Motored up from Jersey and had a grand time all the way. I walk,
mostly, but commandeer a machine for long skips. To learn how to live,
my dear boy, that's the great business! Not sure I've caught the trick,
but I'm working at it, with such feeble talents as the gods have
He filled a pipe deftly from a canvas bag, and drew the strings
together with white, even teeth.
This cool, lounging stranger was playing a trick of some kind;
Deering was confident of this and furious at his utter inability to
cope with him. He clung to the back of a chair, trembling with anger.
My name, the visitor continued, tossing his match into an
ash-tray, is HoodR. Hood. The lone initial might suggest Robert or
Roderigo, but if your nursery library was properly stocked you will
recall a gentleman named Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest. I don't pretend
to be a descendantfar from it; adopted the name out of sheer
admiration for one of the grandest figures in all literature. Robin
Hood, Don Quixote, and George Borrow are rubricated saints in my
calendar. By the expression on your face I see that you don't make me
out, and I can't blame you for thinking me insane; but, my dear boy,
such an assumption does me a cruel wrong. Briefly, I'm a hobo with a
weakness for good society, and yet a friend of the under dog. I confess
to a passion for grand opera and lobster in all its forms. Do you grasp
Deering did not grasp it. The man had protested his sanity, but
Deering had heard somewhere that a confident belief in their mental
soundness is a common hallucination of lunatics. Still, the stranger's
steady gray eyes did not encourage the suspicion that he was mad.
Deering's own reason, already severely taxed, was unequal to the task
of dealing with this assured and cheerful Hood, who looked like a
gentleman but talked like a fool.
For God's sake, who are you and what do you want? he demanded
Hood pushed him gently into a chair, utterly ignoring his fury.
What time do we dine? Seven-thirty, I think your servant told me. I
shan't dress if you don't mind. Speaking of clothes, that man of yours
is a very superficial observer; let me in on the strength of my
automobile coat, and I suppose the machine impressed him too. If he'd
looked under the surface at these poor rags, I'd never have got by!
That illustrates an ancient habit of the serving class in thinking all
is gold that glitters. Snobs! Deplorable weakness! Let's talk like
sensible men till the gong sounds.
Deering shook himself impatiently. This absurd talk, carefully
calculated, he assumed, to prolong his misery, had torn his nerves to
shreds. Hood sat down close to him in a straight-backed chair, crossed
his legs, and thrust his hands into his coat pockets.
My dear boy, in the name of all the gods at once, cheer up! To
satisfy your very natural curiosity, I'll say that I fancied you were
in trouble and needed a strong arm to sustain you in your hour of
trial. Laudable purposeah, I see you begin to feel more comfortable.
I have every intention of playing the big brother to you for a few
hours, weeks, or months, or till you come out of your green funk. You
wonder, of course, what motive I have for intruding in this waylying
to your servant, and making myself at home in your house. The motive,
so far as there is any, is the purely selfish one of finding enjoyment
for myself, while incidentally being of service to you. And you're
bound to admit that that's a fair offer in this world of greed and
selfishness. The great trouble with most of us is that the flavor so
soon wears out of the chewing-gum. Do you remember the last time you
had a good, hearty laugh? I'll wager you don't!
Deering scowled, but Hood continued to expound his philosophy:
The world's roaring along at such a rate we can't find happiness
anywhere but in the dictionary. It's worrying me to death, just the
spectacle of the fool old human race never getting a chance to sit down
by the side of the road and pick the pebbles out of its shoes.
Everybody's feet hurt and everybody's carrying a blood pressure that's
bound to blow the roof off. I tell you, Deering, civilization hasn't
got anything on the gypsies but soap and sanitary plumbing, I'm just
forty-five and for years I've kept in motion most of the time. Alone of
great travellers William Jennings Bryan has reviewed more water-tanks
than I. I find the same delight in Butte, Peoria, Galesburg, Des
Moines, Ashtabula, and Bangor, in Tallahassee, Birmingham, and Waco,
that others seek in London, Paris, and Viennaand it's all American
stuffbusiness of flags flying and Constitution being chanted offstage
by a choir of a million voices! I've lived in coal-camps in Colorado,
wintered with Maine lumbermen, hopped the ties with hobos, and enjoyed
the friendship of thieves. I don't mean to brag, but I suppose there
isn't a really first-rate crook in the country that I don't know. And
down in the underworld they look on meif I may modestly say itas an
old reliable friend. I've found these contacts immensely instructive,
as you may imagine. Don't get nervous! I never stole anything in my
He thrust his fingers into his inside waistcoat pocket, and drew out
a packet of bills, neatly folded, and opened them for Deering's
I beg of you don't jump to the conclusion that I roll in wealth.
Money is poison to me; I hate the very smell of ithaven't a cent of
my own in the world. This belongs to my chauffeurcarry it as a
Hood relighted his pipe, and dreamily watched the match blacken and
curl in his fingers.
Your chauffeur? Deering suggested, like a child prompting a parent
in the midst of an absorbing story.
Oh, yes! Cassowaryhe pronounced the word lingeringly as though
to prolong his pleasure in itreal name doesn't matter. His father
rolled up a big wad cutting the forest primeval into lumber, and left
it to Cassowarymatter of a million or two. Cassowary had been driven
to drink by an unhappy love-affair when I plucked him as a brand from
burning Broadway. Nice chap, but too much self-indulgence; never had
any discipline. He's pretty well broken in now, and as we seemed to
need each other we follow the long trail together. Manage to hit it off
first-rate. He's still mooning over the girl; tough that he can't have
the only thing in the world he wants! Obstreperous parent adumbrated in
the foreground, shotgun in hand. I don't allow Cassowary to carry any
moneywould rather risk contamination myself than expose him to it. If
he stays with me for a few years, his accumulated income will roll up
so that he can endow orchestras and art museums all through the prairie
towns of the West, and become a great benefactor of mankind.
Hood's story was manifestly absurd, and yet he invested it with a
certain plausibility. Even Cassowary, as Hood described him, seemed a
wholly credible person, and the bills Hood had drawn from his pocket
bore all the marks of honest money.
Dinner was announced, and Hood lounged down-stairs and into the
dining-room arm in arm with Deering. A tapestry on the wall immediately
attracted his attention. After pecking at the edges with his long,
slender fingers he turned to his seat with a sigh.
Preposterous imitation! I dare say it was passed off as a real
Gobelin, but I know the artist who fakes those thingsa New Jersey
genius and very smooth at the game.
Deering had never paid the slightest attention to the tapestry,
which had hung in the room for a dozen years, but he apologized in a
vein of irony for its spuriousness, and steeled himself against
complaints of the food; but after tasting the soup Hood praised it with
enthusiasm. He was wholly at ease, and his table manners were beyond
criticism. He seemed indifferent to the construction Deering or the
bewildered Briggs might place upon his confessions, to which he now
glibly addressed himself.
A couple of years ago I was roaming through the Western provinces
with a couple of old friends who persistagainst my advice, I assure
youin the childish pastime of safe-blowing. We got pinched en bloc, and as I was broke I had to sponge on the yeggs to get me out of
Briggs dropped a plate and Deering frowned at the interruption. Hood
went on tranquilly:
However, I was immured only three weeks, and the experience was
broadening. That was in Omaha, and I'll say without fear of
contradiction that the Omaha jail is one of the most comfortable in the
Missouri Valley. I recommend it, Deering, without reservation, to any
one in search of tranquillity. After they turned me loose I introduced
myself to an old college classmatefraternity brotherno danger of
exposure. I had him put me up at the Omaha Club, and then I gave a
dinner to the United States commissioner who heard my case, the
district attorney, and the United States marshal. I wanted to ask the
yeggs tooit seemed only squarebut the judge was out of town, and
the marshal was afraid his Honor might cite him for contempt if he
brought his prisoners to my party. These things probably seem to you
most banal, but take it all round I do manage to keep amused. Of
course, now and then I pay more for my fun than it's worth. Last summer
I mixed in with some moonshiners in Tennessee. Moonshining is almost a
lost art, and I wanted the experience before the business became
extinct. An unsociable lot, the lone still boys, and wouldn't warm up
to me a bit. The unhappy result was a bullet through my left lung. I
got patched up by a country doctor, but had to spend two months in a
Philadelphia hospital for the finishing touches.
Deering's uneasiness increased. This man who spoke so blithely of
imprisonment and bullets in his lung must have a motive for his visit.
With a jerk of the head he sent Briggs from the room.
This is all very amusing, he remarked with decision as he put down
his salad-fork, but will you pardon me for asking just why you came
here? I have your own word for it that your favorite amusement is
consorting with criminals, and that money you flashed may have been
stolen for all I know! If you have any business with me
My dear boy, I don't blame you for growing restless, replied Hood
amiably. Of course, I know that your father and sister are away, and
that you are alone. Your family history I am pretty familiar with; your
antecedents and connections are excellent. Your mother, who died four
years ago, was of the Rhode Island Ranger familyand there is no
better blood in America. Your sister Constance won the Westchester golf
championship last yearI learned that from the newspapers, which I
read with a certain passion, as you have observed. If I hadn't thought
you needed companymy company particularlyI shouldn't have landed on
your door-step. You dined Monday night at the Hotel Pendragonat a
table in the corner on the Fifth Avenue side, and your dejection
touched me deeply. Afterward you went down to the rathskeller, and sat
there all alone drinking stuff you didn't need. It roused my
apprehensions. I feared things were going badly with you, and I thought
I'd give you a chance to unburden your soul to me, Hood, the enchanted
For sheer cheek began Deering hotly.
Hood lifted his hand deprecatingly.
Please don't! he remarked soothingly. With the tinkle of a bell
you can call your man and have me bounced. I repacked my bag after
taking a bath in your very comfortable guest-room, and we can part
immediately. But let us be sensible, Deering; just between ourselves,
don't you really need me?
His tone was ingratiating, his manner the kindest. Deering had
walked the streets for two days trying to bring himself to the point of
confessing his plight to one of a score of loyal friendsmen he had
known from prep-school days, and on through college: active,
resourceful, wealthy young fellows who would risk much to help himand
yet in his fear and misery he had shrunk from approaching them. Hood,
he was now convinced, was not a detective come to arrest him; in fact
his guest's sympathies and connections seemed to lie on the other side
of the law's barricade.
They had coffee in the living-room, where Hood, inspired by
specimens of the work of several of the later French painters,
discussed art with sophistication. Deering observed him intently. There
was something immensely attractive in Hood's face; his profile,
clean-cut as a cameo, was thoroughly masculine; his head was finely
moulded, and his gray eyes were frank and responsive.
It's possible, said Deering, after a long silence in which Hood
smoked meditatively, that you may be able to help me.
On a sudden impulse he rose and put out his hand.
Thank you, said Hood gravely, but don't tell me unless you really
So after all the bother of stealing two hundred thousand dollars'
worth of negotiable securities you lost them! Hood remarked
when Deering ended his recital.
Deering frowned and nodded. Not only had he told his story to this
utter stranger, but he had found infinite relief in doing so.
Let us go over the points again, said Hood calmly. You set down
your suitcase containing two hundred K. &L. Terminal 5's in the Grand
Central Station, turned round to buy a ticket to Boston, and when you
picked up the bag it was the wrong one! Such instances are not rare;
the strong family resemblance between suitcases has caused much trouble
in this world. Only the other day a literary friend told me the
magazine editors have placed a ban on mixed suitcases as a fictional
device; but of course that doesn't help us any in this affair. I've
known a few professional suitcase lifters. One of the smoothest is
Sammy Tibbots, but he's doing time in Joliet, so we may as well
No, no! Deering exclaimed impatiently. It was a girl who did the
trick! She was at the local ticket window, just behind me. You see, I
was nervous and after I bought my ticket it dropped to the floor, and
while I was picking it up that girl grabbed my suitcase and beat it for
Enter the girl, Hood muttered. 'Twas ever thus! Of course, you
telegraphed ahead and stopped herthat was the obvious course.
There you go! If I'd done that, there wouldn't have been any
publicity; oh, no! Deering replied contemptuously. People don't carry
big bunches of bonds around in suitcases; they send 'em by registered
express. Of course, if the girl was honest she'd report the matter to
the railroad officials and they'd notify the police, and they'd be
looking for the thief! And that's just what I don't want.
Of course not, Hood assented readily. That was Wednesday and this
is Friday, and you haven't seen any ads in the papers about a suitcase
full of bonds? Well, I'd hardly have missed such a thing myself. What
did the girl look like?
Small, dressed in blue and wearing a white veil. She made a lively
sprint for the gate, and climbed into the last car just as the train
started. The conductor yelled to her not to try it, but the porter
jumped out and pushed her up the steps.
At Hood's suggestion Deering brought the suitcase that had been
exchanged for his own, and disclosed its contentsa filmy night-dress,
a silk shirt-waist, a case of ivory toilet articles bearing a
complicated monogram, a bottle of violet-water, half empty, a pair of
silk stockings, a novel, a pair of patent-leather pumps, all tumbled
[Illustration: The young person left in haste, that's clear
enough, remarked Hood.]
The young person left in haste, that's clear enough, remarked
Hood, balancing one of the pumps in his hand. 'Bonet, Paris,' he
read, squinting at the lining. Most deplorable that we have both
slippers; one would have been a clew, and we could have spent the rest
of our lives measuring footprints. Very nice slippers, though;
fastidious young person, I'll wager. The monogram on these trinkets is
of no assistanceit might be R. G. T., or T. G. R., or G. R. T.
Monograms are a nuisance, a delusion, a snare!
Deering flung the faintly scented violet-tinted toilet-case into the
The silly little fool; why didn't she mind what she was doing! he
exclaimed angrily, and not steal other people's things!
Pardon me, Hood remonstrated, but from your story the less you
speak of stealing the better. But it isn't clear yet why you sneaked
the bonds. Your father has a reputation for generosity; you're an only
son and slated to succeed him in the banking-house. Just what was your
idea in starting for Boston with the loot?
It was to help Ned Ranscomb, an old pal of mine, Deering
blurtedone of the best fellows on earth, who has pulled me out of a
lot of holes. He'd taken options on Mizpah Copper for more than he
could pay for and fell on my neck to help him out. And the rotten part
of it is that I can't find him anywhere! I've telephoned and
telegraphed all over creation, but he's fallen off the earth! I tell
you everything from the start has gone wrong. I guess I didn't tell you
that I already had a couple of hundred thousand in Mizpahall I could
put up personally, and now I've lost the two hundred thousand I stole,
and Ned's got cold feet and drowned himself, and here I'm talking about
it to a man who may be a crook for all I know!
This disappearance of Ranscomb has a suspicious look, remarked
Hood, ignoring the fling. Either money or a woman, of course.
Ranscomb, Deering retorted savagely, is all business and never
fools with women. And you can bet that with this big copper deal on he
wouldn't waste time on any girl that ever was born.
Human beings are as we find them, observed Hood judicially, but
you're entirely too tragic about this whole business. If it isn't
comedy, it's nothing. I'll wager the girl who skipped with your stolen
boodle has a sense of humor. The key-note to her character is in this
novel she grabbed as she hastily packed her bag'The Madness of May.'
That's one of the drollest books ever written. A story like that is a
boon to mankind; it kept me chuckling all night. Haven't read it? Well,
the heroine excused herself from a dinner-table that was boring her to
death, ran to her room and packed a suitcase, and that was the last her
friends saw of her for some time. Along about this season it's in the
blood of healthy human beings to pine for clean air and the open road.
It's the wanderlust that's in all of us, old and young alike. It's
possible that the young lady who ran off with your bonds felt the
spring madness and determined to hit the trail as the girl did in that
yarn. Finding herself possessed of a lot of bonds belonging to a
stranger, I dare say she is badly frightened. Put yourself in that
girl's place, Deeringimagine her feelings, landing somewhere after a
hurried journey, opening her suitcase to chalk her nose, and finding
herself a thief!
Rot! sniffed Deering angrily.
One moment he distrusted Hood; the next his heart warmed to him. At
the table the light-hearted adventurer had kept him entertained and
amused with his running comment on books, public characters, the
world's gold supply, and scrapes he had been in, without dropping any
clew to his identity. He seemed to be a veritable encyclopædia of
places; apparently there was not a town in the United States that he
hadn't visited, and he spoke of exclusive clubs and thieves' dens in
the same breath. But Deering's hopes of gaining practical aid in the
search for the lost bonds was rapidly waning.
There's no use being silly about this; I'm going to telephone to a
detective agency and tell them to send out a good man, right
As you please, Hood assented, but if you do, you'll regret it to
your last hour. I know the whole breed, and you may count on their
making a mess of it. And consider for a moment that what you propose
means putting a hired bloodhound on the trail of a girl who probably
never harmed a kitten in her life. It would be rotten caddishness to
send a policeman after her. It isn't done, Deering; it isn't done! Of
course, there's not much chance that the sleuths would ever come within
a hundred miles of her, but what if they found her! You are a
gentleman, Deering, and that's not the game for you to play.
Then tell me a better one! In ten days at the farthest father will
be back and what am I going to say to himhow am I going to explain
breaking into his safety box and stealing those bonds?
You can't explain it, of course, and it's rather up to you, son, to
put 'em back. Every hour you spend talking about it is wasted time.
That girl's had your suitcase two days, and it's your duty to find her.
Something must have happened or she'd have turned it back to the
railroad company. Perhaps she's been arrested as a thief and thrown
into jail! Again, her few effects point to a degree of
prosperityshe's not a girl who would steal for profit; I'll swear to
that. We must find that girl! We'll toss a slipper and start off the
way the toe points.
Indifferent to Deering's snort of disgust, Hood was already whirling
the slipper in the air.
Slightly northeast! There you are, Deeringthe clear pointing of
Fate! The girl wasn't going far or she wouldn't have been in the local
ticket line, and even a lady in haste packs more stuff for a long
journey. We'll run up to the Barton Armsan excellent inn, and
establish headquarters. The girl who danced off with your two hundred
thousand is probably around there somewhere, bringing up her tennis for
the first tournaments of the season. Let's be moving; a breath of air
will do you good.
That's all you can do about it, is it? demanded Deering. Let me
tell my whole storyput myself in your power, and now the best you can
do is to flip a slipper to see which way to start!
Just as good a way as any, remarked Hood amiably.
He pressed the button, ordered his car, and then led the way back to
Throw some things into a bag. You'll soon forget your sordid money
affairs and begin to live, and you'd better be prepared for anything
that turns up. I'll fold the coats; some old fishing-togs for rough
work and jails, and even your dress suit may come in handy.
He fell to work, folding the suits neatly, while Deering moved about
like a man in a trance, assembling linen and toilet articles.
Something tells me we're going to have a pretty good time,
continued Hood musingly. I'll show you untold kingdoms, things that
never were on sea or land. We shall meet people worn with the world-old
struggle for things they don't need, and who are out in the tender May
air looking for happinessthe only business, my dear boy, that's
really worth while. And you'll be surprised, son, to find how many such
people there are.
Ah, you're ready, Cassowary! remarked Hood as they stepped out of
the side door where a big touring-car was drawn up in the driveway.
Just a moment till I get my stick.
Briggs had placed their bags in the car, and Deering had a moment in
which to observe the chauffeur, who stood erect and touched his cap.
Hood's protégé proved to be a tall, dark, well-knit young fellow
dressed in a well-fitting chauffeur's costume.
It's a good night for a run, Deering suggested, eying the man in
the light from the door.
I hope the people in the house took good care of you.
Very good, sir.
There was nothing in Cassowary's voice or manner to indicate that he
was the possessor of the fortune to which Hood had referred so lightly.
Deering's hastily formed impressions of Hood's chauffeur were wholly
agreeable and satisfying.
Hood, lingering in the hall, could be heard warning Briggs against
the further accumulation of fat. He recommended a new system of
reducing, and gave the flushed and stuttering butler the name of a New
York specialist in dietetics whom he advised him to consult without
The chauffeur's lips twitched and, catching Deering's eye, he
winked. Deering tapped his forehead. Cassowary shook his head.
Don't you believe it! he ejaculated with spirit.
At this moment Hood appeared on the steps, banging his recovered
stick noisily as he descended.
The Barton Arms, Cassowary, he ordered, and they set off at a
On the steps of the Barton Arms an hour later Hood and Deering ran
into two men who were just leaving the inn. Hood greeted them heartily
as old acquaintances and remained talking to them while Deering went to
ask for rooms.
The suspicions of those fellows always tickle me, he remarked as
he joined Deering at the desk, where he scrawled R. Hood,
Sherwoodville, on the register. Detectivesrather good as the breed
goes, but not men of true vision. Now and then I've been able to give
them a useful hintthe slightest, mind you, and only where I could
divert suspicion from some of my friends in the underworld. I always
try to be of assistance to predatory genius; there are clever crooks
and stupid ones; the kind who stoop to vulgar gun-work when their own
stupidity gets them into a tight pinch don't appeal to me. My artistic
sensibilities are affronted by clumsy work.
Perhaps Deering suggested with a hasty glance at the
doormaybe they're looking for me!
Bless you, no, Hood replied as they followed a boy with their
bags; nothing so intelligent as that. On the contraryhe paused at
the landing and laid his hand impressively on Deering's armon the
contrary, they're looking for me!
He went on with a chuckle and a shake of the head, as though the
thought of being pursued by detectives gave him the keenest pleasure.
When he reached their rooms he sat down and struck his knee sharply and
chuckled again. Deering turned frowningly for an explanation of his
Oh, don't bother about those chaps! I repeat, that they are looking
for me, buthe knit his fingers behind his head and grinnedthey
don't know it!
Don't know you are you! exclaimed Deering.
You never said a truer word! More than that, they're not likely to!
There are things, son, IHood, the frankest of mortalscan't tell
even you! I, Hood, the inexplicable; Hood, the prince of tramps, the
connoisseur in all the artseven I must have my secrets; but in time,
my dear boy, in time you shall know everything! But there's work before
us! The long arm of coincidence beckons us. We shall test for ourselves
all the claptrap of the highest-priced novelists.
Deering walked to the window and stared out at the landscape, then
strode toward Hood angrily.
I don't like this! he wailed despairingly. You promised to help
me find those stolen bonds, and now you're talking like a lunatic
again. If I can't find the bonds, I've got to find Ranscomb, and get
back that first two hundred thousand I gave him. I can't stand
thisdetectives waiting for us wherever we stop, and you babbling
rotrot Words failed him; he clinched his hands and glared.
Don't bluster, son, or I shall grow peevish, Hood replied
tolerantly. At the present moment I feel like taking a walk under the
mystical May stars. The night invites the soul to meditation; the stars
may have the answer to all our perplexities. Stop fretting about your
bonds and your friend Ranscomb; very likely he's busted, clean broke;
that's what usually happens to fellows who take money from their
friends and put it into the metals. Possibly he swallowed poison, and
went to sleep forever just to escape your wrath. Let us take counsel of
the heavens and try to forget your sins. We must still move the way the
slipper pointednortheast. The road bends away from the inn just right
for a fresh start. We depart, we skip, we are on our way, my dear boy!
They had walked nearly a mile when Deering announced that he was
tired, and refused to go farther. He clambered upon a stone wall at the
roadside. On a high ridge some distance away and etched against the
stars was a long, low house.
Splendid type of bungalow, Hood commented, throwing his legs over
the wall. I'm glad you have an eye for nice effectsthe roof makes a
pretty line against the stars, and those pines beyond add a toucha
distinct touch. Bungalows should always be planned with a view to night
effects; too bad architects don't always consider little points like
Deering growled angrily. Suddenly as his eyes gazed over the long,
sloping meadow that rose to the house he started and laid his hand on
Steady, steady! Always give a ghost a chance, murmured Hood.
If the figure that danced across the meadow was a ghost, it was an
agile one, and its costume represented a radical departure from the
traditional garb of spirits doomed to walk the night.
A boy, kicking up before he goes to bed, suggested Deering,
forgetting his sorrows for the moment as he contemplated the dancing
In a clown's suit, if I'm any judge, said Hood, jumping down from
the wall and moving cautiously up the slope. The dancing figure
suddenly darted away through a clump of trees.
Of course, remarked Hood when they had reached the level where the
figure had executed its fantastic gyrations, of course, it's none of
our affair; but, in that story I was telling you about, the heroine
danced around at night in strange costumes scaring people to death. I'm
not saying this ghost has read that bookI'm merely stating a fact.
They found a path that zigzagged across the meadow and followed it
to the edge of a ravine. Below they heard the ripple of running water;
and as an agreeable accompaniment some one was whistling softly.
In a moment the rattle of loosened gravel caused them to drop down
by the path. The pantalooned figure came up, still whistling, and
paused for a moment to take breath. Deering, throwing himself back from
the path, grasped a bush. The twigs rattled noisily, and with a
frightened Oh! the clown darted away, nimbly and fleetly. They
followed a white blur in the starlight for an instant and heard the
patter of light feet.
A girl, whispered Deering.
I believe you are right, remarked Hood, feeling about in the
grass, and here's a part of her costume. He picked up something white
and held it to his face. She dropped her clown's cap when you began
shaking the scenery. I seem to remember that a girl's hair is sweet
like that! In old times the clown's cap was supposed to possess magic.
Son, we have begun well! A girl masquerading, happy victim of the May
madnessthis is the jolliest thing I've struck in yearsa girl, out
dancing all by her lonesome under the starsColumbine playing
We might as well be off, he added, relighting his pipe. We
frightened her ladyship, and she will dance no more to-night. However,
we have her cap, which points the way for to-morrow's work.
You're going to hang around here watching a girl cut
monkey-shines! moaned Deering. You haven't forgotten what we're
looking for, have you! he demanded, shaking his fist in Hood's face.
Once more, be calm! Don't you see that you're on the verge of a new
'Midsummer Night's Dream'; that the world's tired of work and gone back
to play! Don't talk like a tired business man whose wife has dragged
him to see one of Ibsen's frolics'Rosmersholm,' for examplewhere
they talk for three hours and then jump in the well! The fact that
there's one girl left in the world to dance under stars ought to
hearten you for anything. We don't find in this world the things we're
looking for, Deering; we've got to be ready for surprises. I won't say
that that's the girl who ran off with your bonds; all I can say is that
she's as likely to be the one as any girl I can think of. Tut! Don't
imagine I don't sympathize with you in your troubles; but forget them,
that's the ticket. This will do for to-night. We'd better go back to
the Barton and to bed.
He yawned sleepily and started toward the road. Deering caught him
by the arm.
I was just thinking he began.
Thinking is a bad habit, my boy. Thought is the curse of the world.
The less thinking we do the better off we are. Down at Pass Christian
last winter I sat under a tree for a solid month and never thought a
think. Most profitable time I ever spent in my life. Camped with a
sneak-thief who was making a tour of the Southern resortsnice chap;
must tell you about him sometime.
He chuckled as though the recollection of his larcenous companion
pleased him tremendously.
I don't believe I'll go back to the Barton just yet, Deering
suggested timidly. It's possible, you know, that that girl might
You've got it! exclaimed Hood eagerly, clapping his hands upon
Deering's shoulders. The spell is taking hold! Wait here a thousand
years if you like for that kid to come back, and don't bother about me.
But cut out your vulgar bond twaddle, and don't ask her if she stole
your suitcase! As like as not she'll lead you to the end of the
rainbow, and show you a meal sack bulging with red, red gold. Here's
her capbetter keep it for good luck.
Deering stood, with the clown's cap in his hand, staring after
Hood's retreating figure. It was not wholly an illusion that he had
experienced a change of some sort, and he wondered whether there might
not be something in Hood's patter about the May madness. At any rate,
his troubles had slipped from him, and he was conscious of a new and
delightful sense of freedom. Moreover, he had been kidnapped by the
oddest man he had ever met, and he didn't care!
Beyond the bungalow rose a dark strip of woodland, and suddenly, as
Deering's eyes caught sight of it, he became aware that the moon, which
had not appeared before that night, seemed to be lingering cosily among
the trees. Even a victim of May madness hardly sees moons where they do
not exist, but to all intents and purpose this was a moon, a
large round moon, on its way down the horizon in the orderly fashion of
elderly moons. He turned toward the road, then glanced back quickly to
make sure his eyes were not playing tricks upon him. The moon was still
there, blandly staring. His powers of orientation had often been
tested; on hunting and fishing trips he had ranged the wilderness
without a compass, and never come to grief. He was sure that this huge
orb was in the north, where no moon of decent habits has any right to
With his eyes glued to this phenomenon, he advanced up the slope.
When he reached the crest of the meadow the moon still hung where he
had first seen ita most unaccountable moon that apparently lingered
to encourage his investigations.
He jumped a wall that separated the meadow from the woodland, and
advanced resolutely toward the lunar mystery. He found Stygian darkness
in among the pines: the moon, considering its size, shed amazingly
little light. He crept toward it warily, and in a moment stood beneath
the outward and visible form of a moon cleverly contrived of barrel
staves and tissue-paper with a lighted lantern inside, and thrust into
the crotch of a tree.
As he contemplated it something struck himsomething, he surmised,
that had been flung by mortal hand, and a pine-cone caught in his
Please don't spoil my moon, piped a voice out of the darkness.
It's a lot of trouble to make a moon!
Walking cautiously toward the wall, he saw, against the star dusk of
the open, the girl in clown costume who had danced in the meadow. She
sat the long way of the wall, her knees clasped comfortably, and seemed
in nowise disturbed by his appearance.
I beg your pardon, he said, but I didn't know it was your
moon. I thought it was just the regular old moon that had got lost on
the way home.
Oh, don't apologize. I rather hoped somebody would come up to have
a look at it; but you'd better run along now. This is private property,
Thanks for the hint, he remarked. But on a night when moons hang
in trees you can't expect me to be scared away so easily. And besides,
I'm an outlaw, he ended in a tone meant to be terrifying.
She betrayed neither surprise nor fear, but laughed and uttered a
Really! that was just such a really as any well-bred girl might use
at a tea, or anywhere else that reputable folk congregate, to express
faint surprise. Her way of laughing was altogether charming. A girl who
donned a clown's garb for night prowling and manufactured moons for her
own amusement could not have laughed otherwise, he reflected.
A burglar? she suggested with mild curiosity.
Not professionally; but I'm seriously thinking of going in for it.
What do you think of burgling as a career?
InterestingratherI should think, she replied after a moment's
hesitation, as though she were weighing his suggestion carefully.
And highway robbery appeals to merather. It's more picturesque,
and you wouldn't have to break into houses. I think I'd rather work in
The chances of escape might be better, she admitted; but you
needn't try the bungalow down there, for there's nothing in it worth
stealing. I give you my word for that!
Oh, I hadn't thought of the bungalow. I had it in mind to begin by
holding up a motor. Nobody's doing that sort of thing just now.
Capital! she murmured pleasantly, as though she found nothing
extraordinary in the idea. So you're really new at the game.
Well, I've stolen before, if that's what you mean, but I
didn't get much fun out of it. I suppose after the first fatal plunge
the rest will come easier.
I dare say that's true, she assented. There was real witchery in
the girl's light, murmurous laugh.
It seemed impossible to surprise her; she was taking him as a matter
of courseas though sitting on a wall at night, and talking to a
strange young man about stealing was a familiar experience.
I've joined Robin Hood's band, he continued. At least I've been
adopted by a new sort of Robin Hood who's travelling round robbing the
rich to pay the poor, and otherwise meddling in people's affairsthe
old original Robin Hood brought up to date. If it hadn't been for him I
might be cooling my heels in jail right now. He's an expert on
jailsbeen in nearly every calaboose in America. He's tucked me under
his wingpersuaded me to take the highway, and not care a hang for
How delightful! she replied, but so slowly that he began to fear
that his confidences had alarmed her. That's too good to be true;
you're fooling, aren't youreally?
His eyes had grown accustomed to the light, and her profile was now
faintly limned in the dusk. Hers was the slender face of youth. The
silhouette revealed the straightest of noses and the firmest of little
chins. She was young, so young that he felt himself struggling in an
immeasurable gulf of years as he watched her. Apparently such
sophistication as she possessed was in the things of the world of
wonder, the happy land of make-believe.
Keats would have liked a night like this, she said gently.
Deering was silent. Keats was a person whom he knew only as the
subject of a tiresome lecture in his English course at college.
Bill Blake would have adored it, but he would have had lambs in the
pasture, she added.
Bill Blake? he questioned. Do you mean Billy Blake who was
half-back on the Harvard eleven last year?
She tossed her head and laughed merrily.
I love that! she replied lingeringly, as though to prolong her joy
in his ignorance. I was thinking of a poet of that name who wrote a
nice verse something like this:
'I give you the end of a golden string;
Only wind it into a ball,
It will lead you in at Heaven's gate,
Built in Jerusalem's wall.'
No girl had ever quoted poetry to him before, and he was thinking
more of her pretty way of repeating the stanzakeeping time with her
handsthan of the verse itself.
Well, he said, what's the rest of it?
Oh, there isn't any rest of it! Don't you see that there couldn't
be anything morethat it's finisheda perfect little poem all by
He played with a loosened bit of stone, meekly conscious of his
stupidity. And he did not like to appear stupid before a girl who
danced alone in the starlight and hung moons in trees.
I'm afraid I don't get it. I'd a lot rather stay by this wall
talking to you than go to Jerusalem.
You'd be foolish to do that if you really had the end of the golden
string, and could follow it to Paradise. I think it means any nice
placejust any place where happiness is.
He was not getting on, and to gain time he bade her repeat the
I think I understand now; I've never gone in much for poetry, you
know, he explained humbly.
Burglars are natural poets, I suppose, she continued. A burglar
just has to have imagination or he can't climb through the window of a
house he has never seen before. He must imagine everything
perfectlythe silver on the sideboard, the watch under the pillow, and
the butler stealing down the back stairs with a large, shiny pistol in
Certainly, Deering agreed readily. And if he runs into a
policeman on the way out he's got to imagine that it's an old college
friend and embrace him.
You mustn't spoil a pretty idea that way! she admonished in a tone
that greatly softened the rebuke. Come to think of it, you haven't
told me your name yet; of course, if you become a burglar, you will
have a great number of names, but I'd like awfully to know your true
Why? he demanded.
Because you seem nice and well brought up for a burglar, and I
liked your going up to the moon and poking your finger into it. That
makes me feel that I'd like to know you.
Well, the circumstances being as they are, and being really a
thief, you mustn't ask me to tell my real name; for all I know you may
be a detective in disguise.
I'm notreally, she saidhe found her reallys increasingly
You might call me Friar Tuck or Little John. I'm travelling with
Robin Hood, you remember.
Mr. Tuckthat will be splendid!
And now that you know my name it's only fair to tell me yours.
Pierrette, she answered.
His unconscious imitation of her manner of uttering this phrase
evoked another merry laugh.
Yes, really, she answered.
And you live somewhere, of coursenot in the tree up there with
your moon, but in the bungalow, I suppose.
I live wherever I am; that's the fun of playing all the time, she
replied evasively. Poste restante, the Little Dipper. How do
you like that?
But just now your true domicile is the bungalow? he persisted.
Oh, I've been stopping there for a few days, that's all. I haven't
any homenot really, she added as though she found her homelessness
the happiest of conditions. She snapped her fingers and recited:
Wherever stars shine brightest, there my home shall be,
In the murmuring forest or by the sounding sea,
With overhead the green bough and underfoot the grass,
Where only dreams and butterflies ever dare to pass!
Is that Keats or Blake? he ventured timidly.
It's me, you goose! But it's only an imitationwhy,
Stevenson, of course, and pretty punk as you ought to know. Gracious!
She jumped down from the wall, on the side toward the bungalow, and
stared up at the tree she had embellished with her moon.
The moon's gone out, and I've got to go in!
Please, before you go, when can I see you again?
Who knows! she exclaimed unsympathetically; but she waited as
though pondering the matter.
But I must see you again! he persisted.
Oh, I shouldn't say that it was wholly essential to your
happinessor mine! I can't meet burglarssocially!
Burglars! But I'm not he cried protestingly.
She bent toward him with one hand extended pleadingly.
Don't say it! Don't say it! If you say you're not,
you won't be any fun any more!
Well, then we'll say I ama terrible freebootera bold, bad
pirate, he growled. Now, may I come?
She mused a moment, then struck her hands together.
Come to the bungalow breakfast; that's a fine idea!
And may I bring Hood? he asked, leaning half-way across the wall
in his anxiety to conclude the matter before she escaped. He's my
boss, you understand, and I'm afraid I can't shake him.
Certainly; bring Mr. Hood. Breakfast at eight.
And your homeyour addressis there in the bungalow?
I've told you where my home is, in a verse I made up specially; and
my address is care of the Little Dipperthere it is, up there in the
sky, all nice and silvery.
His gaze followed the pointing of her finger. The Little Dipper, as
an address for the use of mortals, struck him as rather remote. To his
surprise she advanced to the wall, rested her hands upon it, and peered
into his face.
Isn't this perfectly killing? she asked in a tone wholly different
from that in which she had carried on her share of the colloquy.
He experienced an agreeable thrill as it flashed upon him that this
was no child, but a young woman who, knowing the large world, had
suddenly awakened to a consciousness that encounters with strange young
men by starlight were not to be prolonged forever. In the luminous dusk
he noted anew the delicate perfectness of her face, the fine brow about
which her hair had tumbled from her late exertions. Her eyes searched
his face with honest curiosityfor an instant only.
Then she stepped back, as though to mark a return to her original
character, and answered her own question with an air of amused
It is perfectly killing!
His hand fumbled the cap in his pocket.
Here's something I found down yonderyour clown's cap.
She took it with a murmur of thanks, and darted away toward the
bungalow. He heard her light step on the veranda and then a door closed
with a sharp bang.
Deering walked back to the inn with his head high and elation
throbbing in his pulses. He observed groups of people playing bridge in
the inn parlor, and he was filled with righteous contempt for them. The
May air had changed his whole nature. He was not the William B. Deering
who had meditated killing himself a few hours earlier. A new joy had
entered into him; he was only afraid now that he might not live
Hood slept tranquilly, his bed littered with the afternoon's New
York papers which evidently he had been scissoring when he fell asleep.
Deering's attitude toward the strange vagrant had changed since his
meeting with Pierrette. Hood might be as mad as the traditional hatter,
and yet there was somethingindubitably somethingabout the man that
set him apart from the common run of mortals.
Deering lay awake a long time rejoicing in his new life, and when he
dreamed it was of balloon-like moons cruising lazily over woods and
fields, pursued by innumerable Pierrettes in spotted trousers and
He awoke at seven, and looked in upon Hood, who lay sprawled upon
his bed reading one of the battered volumes of Borrow he carried in his
Get your tub, son; I've had mine and came back to bed to let you
have your sleep out. Marvellous manBorrow. Spring's the time to read
him. We'll have some breakfast and go out and see what the merry old
world has to offer.
With nice calculation he tossed the book into the open bag on the
further side of the room, rose, and stretched himself. Deering stifled
an impulse to scoff at his silk pajamas as hardly an appropriate
sleeping garb for one who professed to have taken vows of poverty. Hood
noted his glance.
Found these in some nabob's house at Bar Harbor last fall. Went up
in November, after all the folks had gone, to have a look at the steely
blue ocean; camped in a big cottage for a few days. Found a drawer full
of these things and took the pink ones. Wrote my thanks on the villa's
stationery and pinned 'em to the fireplace. I hate to admit it, son,
but I verily believe I could stand a little breakfast.
We're going out for breakfast, Deering remarked with affected
carelessness. I accepted an invitation for you last night. A girl up
there at the bungalow asked me; I told her about you, and she seemed
willing to stand for it.
The thought pleases me! You are certainly doing well, my boy! Hood
replied, dancing about on one foot as he drew a sock on the other.
He explained that a man should never sit down while dressing; that
the exercise he got in balancing himself was of the greatest value as a
stimulus to the circulation.
She's a very nice girl, I think, Deering continued, showing his
lathered face at the bathroom door.
He hadn't expected Hood to betray surprise, and he was not
disappointed in the matter-of-course fashion in which his companion
received the invitation.
Breakfast is the one important meal of the day, Hood averred as he
executed a series of hops in his efforts to land inside his trousers.
All great adventures should be planned across breakfast tables;
centrepiece of cool fruits; coffee of teasing fragrance, the toast
crisp; an egg perhaps, if the morning labors are to be severe. I know a
chap in Boston who cuts out breakfast altogether. Most melancholy
person I ever knew; peevish till one o'clock, then throws in a heavy
lunch that ruins him for the rest of the day. What did you say the
adorable's name was?
Pierrette, Deering spluttered from the tub.
Delightful! cried Hood, flourishing his hair-brushes. Then you
met the dancing-girl! I must say
She had hung a moon in a tree! I followed the moon and found the
Always the way; it never fails, Hood commented, as though the
finding of the girl had fully justified his philosophy of life. But we
can't fool away much time at the bungalow; we've got a lot to do
Time! cried Deering, I'm going to stay forever! You can't expect
me to find a girl whose post-office address is the Little Dipper, and
then go coolly off and forget about her!
That's the right spirit, son, Hood remarked cautiously; but we'll
see. I'll have a look at her and decide what's best for you. My
business right now is to keep you out of trouble. You can't tell about
these moon girls; she may have a wart on her nose when you see her in
And she probably has parents who may not relish the idea of having
two strange men prowling about the premises looking for breakfast.
There are still a few of those old-fashioned people left in the world.
It may be only a backdoor hand-out for us, but I've sawed wood for
breakfast before now. I'll wait for you below; I want to see how old
Cassowary's standing the racket. The boy seemed a little cheerfuller
They walked to the bungalow which, to Deering's relief, was still
perched on the ridge as he had left it. He was beset with misgivings as
they entered the gate and followed a hedge-lined path that rose
gradually to the house; it might be a joke after all; but Hood's manner
was reassuring. He swung his stick and praised the landscape, and when
they reached the veranda banged the knocker noisily. A capped and
aproned maid opened the door immediately.
Deering, struck with cowardice, found his legs quaking and stepped
back to allow Hood to declare their purpose.
We have come for breakfast, lass, Hood announced, and have
brought our appetites with us if that fact interests you.
You are expected, said the maid; breakfast will be served
She led the way across a long living-room to the dining-room beyond,
where a table was set for three. The tangible presence of the third
plate caused Deering's heart to thump.
The host or hostess? Hood inquired as the girl waited for them
to be seated.
The lady of the house wished me to say that she would be herein
spirit! Pressing duties called her elsewhere.
Deering's spirits sank. Pierrette, then, was only a dream of the
night, and had never had the slightest intention of meeting him at
breakfast! The maid curtsied and vanished through a swing door.
Hood, accepting the situation as he found it, expressed his
satisfaction as a bowl of strawberries was placed on the table, and as
the door ceased swinging behind the maid, laid his hand on Deering's
arm. Don't worry; mere shyness has driven our divinity away: you can
see for yourself that even a girl who hangs moons in trees might shrink
from the shock of a daylight meeting with a gentleman she had found
amusing by starlight. Let it suffice that she provided the breakfast
according to schedulethat's highly encouraging. With strawberries at
present prices she has been generous. This little disappointment merely
adds zest to the adventure.
The hand of the maid as she changed his plate at once interested
Deering. It was a slender, supple, well-kept hand, browned by the sun.
Her maid's dress was becoming; her cap merely served to invite
attention to her golden-brown hair. Her coloring left nothing for the
heart to desire, and her brown eyes called immediately for a second
glance. She was deft and quick; her graceful walk in itself compelled
admiration. As the door closed upon her, Hood bent a look of inquiry
upon his brooding companion.
Perhaps she's the adorablethe true, authentic Pierrette, he
Deering shook his head.
No; the other girl was not so tall and her voice was different; it
was wonderfully sweet and full of laughter. I couldn't be fooled about
There's mystery herea game of some kind. Mark the swish of silken
skirts; unless my eyes fail me, I caught a glimpse of silken hose as
she flitted into the pantry.
When an omelet had been served and the coffee poured (she poured
coffee charmingly!) Hood called her back as she was about to leave
Two men should never be allowed to eat alone. If your mistress is
not returning at once, will you not do us the honor to sit down with
Thank you, sir, she said, biting her lip to conceal a smile.
Deering was on his feet at once and drew out the third chair, which
she accepted without debate. She composedly folded her arms on the edge
of the table as though she were in nowise violating the rules set down
for the guidance of waitresses. Hood, finding the situation to his
taste, blithely assumed the lead in the conversation.
It is perfectly proper for you to join us at table, he remarked,
but formal introductions would not be in keeping. Still, your employer
doubtless has some familiar name for you, and you might with propriety
tell us what it is, so we won't need to attract your attention by
employing the vulgar 'Say' or 'Listen'!
My mistress calls me Babette, she answered, her lashes drooping
Perfect! cried Hood ecstatically. And we are two outlaws whose
names it is more discreet for us to withhold, even if it were proper to
exchange names with a mere housemaid.
Deering winced; it was indecent in Hood to treat her as though she
were a housemaid when so obviously she was not.
My friend doesn't mean to be rude, he explained; the morning air
always makes him a little delirious.
I hope I know my place, the girl replied, and I'm sure you
gentlemen mean to be kind.
You needn't count the spoons after we leave, said Hood; I assure
you we have no professional designs on the house.
Thank you, sir. Of course, if you stole anything, it would be taken
out of my wages.
Deering's interest in her increased.
She rested her chin on her hand just as his sister often did when
they lingered together at table. He was a good brother and Constance
was his standard. He was sure that Constance would like Pierrette's
maid. He resented Hood's patronizing attitude toward the girl, but
Hood's spirits were soaring and there was no checking him.
Babette, he began, I'm going to trouble you with a question, not
doubting you will understand that my motives are those of a philosopher
whose whole life has been devoted to the study of the human race. May I
ask you to state in all sincerity whether you consider apple sauce the
essential accompaniment of roast duck?
I do not; nor do I care for jelly with venison, she answered
Admirable! You are clearly no child of convention but an
independent thinker! May I smoke? Thanks!
He drew out his pipe and turned beaming to the glowering Deering.
There, my boy! Babette is one of usone of the great company of
the stars! Wonderful, how you find them at every turn! Babette, my
sister, I salute you!
She smiled and turned toward Deering.
Are you, too, one of the Comrades of Perpetual Youth? she inquired
I am, Deering declared heartily, and they smiled at each other;
but I'm only a novicea brother of the second class.
She shook her head.
There can be no question of classes in the great
comradeshipeither we are or we are not.
Well spoken! Hood assented, pushing back his chair and crossing
his legs comfortably.
And youdo you and Pierrette think about things the same way?
We doby not thinking, Babette replied. Thinking among the
comrades is forbidden, is it not?
Absolutely, Hood affirmed. Our young brother here is still a
little weak in the faith, but he's taking to it splendidly.
I'm new myself, Babette confessed.
You're letter-perfect in the part, said Hood. Perhaps you were
driven to it? Don't answer if you would be embarrassed by a
The girl pondered a moment; her face grew grave, and she played
nervously with the sugar-tongs.
A man loved me and I sent him away, and was sorry! The last words
fell from her lips falteringly.
He will come backif he is worthy of one of the comradeship, said
Hood consolingly. Even now he may be searching for you.
I was unkind to him; I was very hard on him! And I've been
afraidsometimesthat I should never see him again.
Deering thought he saw a glint of tears in her eyes. She rose
hastily and asked with a wavering smile:
If there's nothing further
Not foodif you mean that, said Hood.
But about Pierrette! Deering exclaimed despairingly. If she's
likely to come, we must wait for her.
I rather advise you against it, the girl answered. I have no idea
when she will come back.
They rose instinctively as she passed out. The door fanned a moment
and was still.
Well? demanded Deering ironically.
Please don't speak to me in that tone, responded Hood. This was
your breakfast, not mine; you needn't scold me if it didn't go to suit
you! Ah, what have we here!
He had drawn back a curtain at one end of the dining-room,
disclosing a studio beyond. It was evidently a practical workshop and
bore traces of recent use. Deering passed him and strode toward an
easel that supported a canvas on which the paint was still wet. He
cried out in astonishment:
That's the moon girlthat's the girl I talked to last nightclown
clothes and all! She's sitting on the wall there just as I found her.
A sophisticated brush; no amateur's job, Hood muttered, squinting
at the canvas. Seems to me I've seen that sort of thing somewhere
latelyPantaloon, Harlequin, Columbine, and Clownlatest fad in
magazine covers. We're in the studio of a popular illustratorthere's
a bunch of proofs on the table, and those things on the floor are from
the same hand. Signature in the corner a trifle obscureMary B.
She may be Babette, Deering suggested. Suppose I call her and
Hood, having become absorbed in a portfolio of pen-and-ink sketches
of clowns, harlequins, and columbines, subjects in which the owner of
the studio apparently specialized, paid no heed to the suggestion. When
Deering returned he was gazing critically at a sketch showing a dozen
clowns executing a spirited dance on a garden-wall.
She's skipped! There isn't a soul on the place, Deering announced
Not at all surprising; probably gone to join her model, Pierrette.
And we'd better clear out before we learn too much; life ceases to be
interesting when you begin to find the answers to riddles. Pierrette is
probably a friend of the artist, and plays model for the fun of it. The
same girl is repeated over and over again in these drawingsfrom which
I argue that Pierrette likes to pose and Babette enjoys painting her.
We mustn't let this affect the general illusion. The next turn of the
road will doubtless bring us to something that can't be explained so
If it doesn't bring us to Pierrette began Deering.
Tut! None of that! For all you know it may bring us to something
infinitely better. Remember that this is mid-May, and anything may
happen before June kindles the crimson ramblers. Let us be off.
Half-way across the living-room Deering stopped suddenly.
My bagmy suitcase! he shouted.
A suitcase it was beyond question, placed near the door as though to
arrest their attention. Deering pounced upon it eagerly and flung it
It's all rightthe stuff's here! he cried huskily.
He began throwing out the packets that filled the case, glancing
hurriedly at the seals. Hood lounged near, watching him languidly.
Most unfortunate, he remarked, noting the growing satisfaction on
Deering's face as he continued his examination. Now that you've found
that rubbish, I suppose there'll be no holding you; you'll go back to
listen to the ticker just when I had begun to have some hope of you!
It was Pierrette that took it; it couldn't have been this artist
girl, said Deering, excitedly whipping out his penknife and slitting
one of the packages. A sheaf of blank wrapping-paper fluttered to the
floor. His face whitened and he gave a cry of dismay. Robbed!
Tricked! he groaned, staring at Hood.
Hood picked up the paper and scrutinized the seal.
S. J. Deering, personal, he read in the wax. You don't suppose
that girl has taken the trouble to forge your father's private seal, do
Deering feverishly tore open the other packages.
All alike; the stuff's gone!
Perspiration beaded his forehead. He stared stupidly at the
You ought to be grateful, son, said Hood; yesterday you thought
yourself a thiefnow that load's off your mind, and you know yourself
for an honest man. General rejoicing seems to be in order. Looks as
though your parent had robbed himselfrather a piquant situation, I
He carried the wrappers to the window-seat and examined them more
Seals were all intact. 'The Tyringham estate,' he read musingly.
What do you make of that? he asked Deering, who remained crumpled on
the floor beside the suitcase.
That's an estate father was executor ofit's a long story. Old man
Tyringham had been a customer of his, and left a will that made it
impossible to close the estate till his son had reached a certain age.
The final settlement was to be made this summer. But my God, Hood, do
you suppose fathermy father could be
A defaulter? Hood supplied blandly.
It's impossible! roared Deering. Father's the very soul of
I dare say he is, remarked Hood carelessly. So were you till
greed led you to pilfer your governor's strong box. Let us be tolerant
and withhold judgment. It's enough that your own skirts are clear. Put
that stuff out of sight; we must flit.
Hood set off for the Barton Arms at a brisk pace, talking
This whole business is bully beyond my highest expectations. By
George, it's almost too good to be true! Critics of the drama complain
that the average amateur's play ends with every act; but so far in our
adventures every incident leads on to something else. Perfectly immense
that somebody had beaten you to the bonds!
Deering's emotions were beyond utterance. It was a warm morning, and
he did not relish carrying the suitcase, whose recovery had plunged him
into a despair darker than that caused by its loss.
At a turn in the road Hood paused, struck his stick heavily upon the
ground, and drew out the slipper. He whirled it in the air three times
and twice it pointed east. He thrust it back into his pocket with a
sigh of satisfaction and brushed the dust from his hands.
Once more we shall follow the pointing slipper. Yesterday it led us
to the moon girl, the bungalow, and the suitcase; now it points toward
the mysterious east, and no telling what new delights!
Hood and Deering found Cassowary sitting in the machine in the inn
yard reading a newspaper; this Hood promptly seized and scanned with
his trained eye.
Are the bags aboard? Ah, I see you have been forehanded,
Deering went to the inn office and came out with a number of
telegrams which he read as he slowly crossed the yard.
What do you think of this? he asked weakly. The yellow sheets
shook in his hand and his face was white. I wired to a bank and a club
in San Francisco last night, and they've answered that father isn't in
San Francisco and hasn't been there! And I wired the people Constance
was to visit at Pasadena, and they don't know anything about her. Just
look at these things!
Sounds like straight information, but why worry? remarked Hood,
scanning the telegrams.
But why should father lie to me? Why should Constance say she was
going to California if she wasn't?
My dear boy, don't ask me such questions! Hood remarked with an
injured air. You are guilty of the gravest error in sending telegrams
without consulting me! How can we trust ourselves to Providence if you
persist in sending telegrams! If you do this again, I shall be
seriously displeased, and you mustn't displease Hood. Hood is very ugly
in his wrath.
Deering was at the point of tears. Hood was a fool, and he wished to
tell him so, but the words stuck in his throat.
We move eastward toward the Connecticut border, Cassowary, Hood
ordered and pushed Deering into the machine.
Hood was as merry as the morning itself, and talked ceaselessly as
they rolled through the country, occasionally bidding Cassowary slow
down and give heed to his discourse. The chauffeur listened with a
grin, glancing guardedly at Deering, who stared grimly ahead with an
unlighted cigar in his mouth. He was not to be disturbed in his
meditations upon the blackness of the world by the idiotic prattle of a
madman. For half an hour Hood had been describing his adventures with a
Dublin University man, whose humor he pronounced the keenest and most
satisfying he had ever known. He had gathered from this person an
immense fund of lore relating to Irish superstitions.
He left me just when I had learned to love him, Hood concluded
mournfully. Became fascinated with a patent-medicine faker we struck
at a county fair in Indiana. He was so tickled over the way the
long-haired doctor played the banjo and jollied the crowd that he
attached himself to his caravan. That Irishman was one of the most
agreeable men to be in jail with that I ever knew; even hardened
murderers would cotton to him. That spire over there must be Addington.
The inn is nothing to boast of, but we'd better tackle it.
His gayety at luncheon once more won Deering to a cheerier view of
his destiny. Hood called for the proprietor and lectured him roundly
for offering canned-blueberry pie. The fact that blueberries were out
of season made no difference to the outraged Hood; pie produced from a
can was a gross imposition. He cited legal decisions covering such
cases and intimated that he might bring proceedings. As the innkeeper
strode angrily away an elderly woman at a neighboring table addressed
the dining-room on the miserable incompetence of the pastry-cooks of
these later times, winding up by thanking Hood heartily for his
protest. She was from Boston, she announced, and the declining
intellectual life of that city she attributed to the deterioration of
Hood rose and gravely replied in a speech of five minutes, much to
the delight of two girls at the old lady's table. Hood wrote his name
on the menu card, and bade the giggling waitress hand it to the lady
from Boston. Her young companions conferred for a moment, and then sent
back a card on which appeared these names neatly pencilled:
The Queen of Sheba
The Duchess of Suffolk (Mass.)
My dear boy, Hood remarked to Deering after he had bowed
elaborately to the trio, I tell you the whole world's caught step with
us! That lady and her two nieces, or granddaughters as the case may be,
are under the spell, just as you and I are and Cassowary and your
Pierrette and Babette of the bungalow. If only you could yield yourself
to the May spirit, how happy we might be! Just think of Cassowary;
worth a million dollars and eating his lunch with the chauffeurs
somewhere below stairs and picking up much information that he will
impart to me later! What a bully world this would be if all mankind
followed my system: stupid conventions all broken-down; the god of
mirth holding his sides as he contemplates the world at play! You may
be sure that old lady is a stickler for the proprieties when she's at
home; widow of a bishop most likely. Those girls have been carefully
reared, you can see that, but full of the spirit of mischief. The
moment I tackled that stupid innkeeper about his monstrous pie they
felt the drawing of the mystic tie that binds us together with silken
cords. Very likely they, like us, are in search of adventure, and if
our own affairs were less urgent I should certainly cultivate their
The lady who called herself the Duchess of Suffolk (Mass.) was
undoubtedly a person of consequence and the possessor of a delightful
humor. Deering assumed that she and her companions were abroad upon a
lark of some kind and were enjoying themselves tremendously. Hood's
spell renewed its grip upon him. It occurred to him that the whole
world might have been touched with the May madness, and that the old
order of things had passed forever. It seemed ages since he had watched
the ticker in his father's office. As they sat smoking on the veranda
the Duchess of Suffolk, the Queen of Sheba, and Maid Marian came out
and entered a big car. The old lady bowed with dignity as the car moved
off; the girls waved their hands.
Perfect! Hood muttered as he returned their salutations. We may
never meet again in this world, but the memory of this encounter will
abide with me forever.
I don't want to appear fussy, Hood, Deering began good-naturedly,
but would you mind telling me what's next on your programme?
Not in the slightest. It's just occurred to me that it would be
well to dine to-night in one of the handsome villas scattered through
these hills. Still following the slipper, we shall choose one somewhere
east of the inn and present ourselves confidently at the front door.
Failing there, we shall assault the postern and, perhaps, enrich our
knowledge of life with the servants' gossip.
There are some famous kennels in this neighborhood, and I'd hate
awfully to have an Airedale bite a hole in my leg, Deering suggested.
My dear boy, that's the tamest thing that could happen to us! My
calves are covered with scars from dogs' teeth; you soon get hardened
to canine ferocity. We'll take a tramp for an hour to work the fuzz off
our gray matter, and then a nap to freshen us up for the evening. We
shall learn much to-night; I'm confident of that.
There seemed to be no way of escaping Hood or changing his mind once
he announced a decision. The programme was put through exactly as he
had indicated. The important thing about the tramp was that Cassowary
accompanied them on the walk, and Deering found him both agreeable and
interesting. He discoursed of polo, last year's Harvard-Yale football
game, and ice-boating, in which he seemed deeply experienced.
Hood left them to look for hieroglyphics on a barn which he said was
a veritable palimpsest of cryptic notations of roving thieves.
Cassowary's manner underwent a marked change when he and Deering
If you're going to give the old boy the slip, he said earnestly,
I want you to give me notice. I'm not going to be left alone with
Their eyes met in a long scrutiny; then Deering laughed.
I don't know how you feel about it, but, by George, I'm afraid to
That's exactly my fix, Cassowary answered. I was in a bad way
when he picked me up: just about ready to jump off a high building and
let it go at that. And I must say he does make things seem brighter. He
mustn't see us talking off key, as he'd say, but I'd like to ask you
this: what's he running away from? That's what worries me. What's he
grabbing newspapers for all the time and slashing out ads and other
You've got me there, Deering replied soberly. We ran into some
men the other night who he said were detectives looking for him, but it
didn't seem to worry him any.
There's nothing new in that. We've struck a number of men
who apparently were looking for somebody, and he greatly enjoys
chaffing them. If he's really a crook, he wouldn't be exposing himself
to arrest as he does.
Hood was now returning from his investigations of the barn, and as
he crossed the pasture was examining a bunch of the newspaper clippings
with which his pockets were stuffed.
You needn't be afraid of getting into trouble with him, Cassowary
remarked admiringly. He pulls off things you wouldn't think could be
done. He's a marvel, that man!
Old Bill Fogarty's been ripping into the country stores in these
parts, began Hood volubly; found his mark on the barn, all right.
Amusing cuss, Fogarty. Sawed himself out of most of the jails between
here and Bangor. We'll probably meet up with him somewhere. It's about
time to go back for that snooze, boys. To the road again!
He strode off singing, in a very good tenor voice, snatches from
Italian operas, and his pace was so rapid that his companions were hard
pressed to keep up with him.
Evening dress was becoming to Hood, enhancing the distinction which
his rough corduroys never wholly obscured. He surveyed Deering
critically, gave a twist to his tie, and said it was time to be off. As
they drove slowly through the country he discussed the various houses
they passed, speculating as to the entertainment they offered. He
finally ordered Cassowary to stop at the entrance to an imposing
estate, where a large colonial mansion stood some distance from the
This strikes me as promising, he remarked, rising in the car and
craning his neck to gain a view of the house through the shrubbery.
Drive in, Cassowary, and stand by with the car till you see whether we
have to run for it.
He gave the electric annunciator a prolonged push, and as a butler
opened the door advanced into the hall with his most authoritative air.
Mr. Hood and Mr. Tuck. I trust I correctly understood that we dine
at seven. The man eyed them with surprise but took their coats and
hats. We are expected. Please announce us immediately.
Deering followed him bewilderedly into the drawing-room and planted
himself close to the door.
Assurance, my dear boy, conquers all things, Hood declaimed. This
stuff looks like real Chippendale, and the rugs seem to be genuine. He
sniffed contemptuously as he posed before a long mirror for a final
inspection of his raiment. It always pains me to detect the odor of
boiled vegetables when I enter a strange house. Architects tell me that
it is almost impossible to prevent
A woman's figure flashed in the mirror beside him, and he whirled
round and bowed from the hips.
I trust you are not so lacking in the sense of hospitality that you
find yourself considering means of ejecting us. My comrade and I are
weary from a long journey.
Turning quickly, her gaze fell upon Deering, who was stealing on
tiptoe toward the door.
Halt! commanded Hood.
Deering paused and sheepishly faced his hostess.
She was a small, trim, graceful woman, of the type that greets
middle life smilingly and with no fear of what may lie beyond. Her dark
hair had whitened, but her rosy cheeks belied its insinuations. She
viewed Deering with frank curiosity, but with no indication of alarm.
She was not a woman one would consciously annoy, and Deering's face
burned as he felt her eyes inspecting him from head to foot. He had
never before been so heartily ashamed of himself; once out of this
scrape, he meant to escape from Hood and lead a circumspect, orderly
Which is Hood and which is Tuck? the woman asked with a faint
The friar is the gentleman standing on one foot at your right,
Hood answered. Conscious of my unworthiness, I plead guilty to being
HoodHood the hobo delectable, the tramp incomprehensible!
Incomprehensible, she repeated; you strike me as altogether
You never made a greater mistake, Hood returned with asperity.
But the question that now agitates us is simply this: do we eat or do
Deering looked longingly at a chair with which he felt strongly
impelled to brain his suave, unruffled companion. Hood apparently was
hardened to such encounters, and stood his ground unflinchingly. All
Deering's instincts of chivalry were roused by the little woman, who
had every reason for turning them out of doors. He resolved to make it
easy for her to do so.
I beg your pardon he faltered.
Hood signalled to him furiously behind her back to maintain silence.
No apology would be adequate, she remarked with dignity. We'd
better drop that and consider your errand on its strict merits.
Admirably said, madam, Hood rejoined readily. We ask nothing of
you but seats at your table and the favor of a little wholesome and
stimulating conversation, which I refuse to believe you capable of
A clock somewhere began to boom seven. She waited for the last
stroke to die away.
I make it a rule never to deny food to any applicant, no matter how
unworthy. You may remain.
[Illustration: I make it a rule never to deny food to any
applicant, no matter how unworthy. You may remain.]
Deering had hardly adjusted himself to this when an old gentleman
entered the room, and with only the most casual glance at the two
pilgrims walked to the grand piano, shook back his cuffs, and began
playing Mendelssohn's Spring Song, as though that particular melody
were the one great passion of his life. When he had concluded he rose
and shook down his cuffs.
If that isn't music, he demanded, walking up to the amazed
Deering, who still clung to his post by the door, what is it? Answer
You played it perfectly, Deering stammered.
And you, he demanded, whirling upon Hood, what have you to say,
The great master himself would have envied your touch, Hood
The old gentleman glared. Rot! he ejaculated; and then, turning to
the mistress of the house, he asked: Do these ruffians dine with us?
They seem about to do us that honor. My father, Mr. Hood, andMr.
Tuck. Shall we go out to dinner?
The gentleman she had introduced as her father glared againa
separate glare for eachand, advancing with a ridiculous strut, gave
the lady his arm.
In the hall Hood intercepted Deering in the act of effecting egress
by way of the front door. His fingers dug deeply into his nervous
companion's arm as he dragged him along, talking in his characteristic
My dear Tuck, it's a pleasure to find ourselves at last in a home
whose appointments speak for breeding and taste. The portrait on our
right bears all the marks of a genuine Copley. Madam, may I inquire
whether I correctly attribute that portrait to our great American
You are quite right, she answered over her shoulder. The subject
of the portrait is my great-great-grandfather.
My dear Tuck! cried Hood jubilantly, still clutching Deering's
arm, fate has again been kind to us; we are among folk of quality, as
I had already guessed.
The dining-room was in dark oak; the glow from concealed burners
shed a soft light upon a round table.
You will sit at my right, Mr. Hood, and Mr. Tuck by my father on
the other side.
Deering pinched himself to make sure he was awake. The next instant
the room whirled, and he clutched the back of his chair for support. A
girl came into the room and walked quickly to the seat beside him.
Mr Hood and Mr. Tuck, my daughter
She hesitated, and the girl laughingly ejaculated: Pierrette!
Sit down, won't you, please, said the little lady; but Deering
stood staring open-mouthed at the girl.
Beyond question, she was the girl of the Little Dipper; there was no
mistaking her. At this point the old gentleman afforded diversion by
rising and bowing first to Hood and then to Deering.
I am Pantaloon, he said. My daughter is Columbine, as you may
It's very nice to see you again, Pierrette remarked to Deering;
but, of course, I didn't know you would be here. How goes the
Ierhaven't got started yet. I find it a little difficult
I'm afraid you're not getting much fun out of the adventurous
life, she suggested, noting the wild look in his eyes.
I don't understand things, that's all, he confessed, but I think
I'm going to like it.
You find it a little too full of surprises? Oh, we all do at first!
You see grandfather is seventy, and he never grew up, and mamma is just
like him. And I She shrugged her shoulders and flashed a smile at
You are wonderfulbewildering, Deering stammered.
The old gentleman was inveighing at Hood upon America's lack of
mirth; the American people had utterly lost their capacity for
laughter, the old man averred. Deering's fork beat a lively tattoo on
his plate as he attacked his caviar.
And then another girl entered and walked to the remaining vacant
place opposite him.
Smeraldina, murmured the mistress of the house, glancing round the
table, and calmly finishing a remark the girl's entrance had
Deering's last hold upon sanity slowly relaxed. Unless his wits were
entirely gone, he was facing his sister Constance. She wore a dark
gown, with white collar and cuffs, and her manner was marked by the
restraint of an upper servant of some sort who sits at the family table
by sufferance. He was about to gasp out her name when she met his eyes
with a glinty stare and a quick shake of the head. Then Pierrette
addressed a remark to herkindly meant to relieve her
embarrassmentreferring to a walk over the hills they had taken
together that afternoon.
Ah, Smeraldina! cried Pantaloon, how is that last chapter?
Columbine refuses to show me any more of the book until it is finished.
I look to you to make a duplicate for my private perusal.
Here was light of a sort upon the strange household; its mistress
was a writer of books; Constance was her secretary; but the effort to
explain how his sister came to be masquerading in such a rôle left him
doddering, and that she should refuse to recognize himher own
If that new book is half as good as 'The Madness of May,'
Pantaloon was saying, I shall not be disappointed.
Oh, it's much better; infinitely better! Constance declared
Tuck, do you realize we are in the presence of greatness? cried
Hood. Then, turning to Columbine: The author will please accept my
Thank you kindly, replied the hostess. I'm fortunate in my
secretary. Smeraldina is my fifth, and the first who ever made a
suggestion that was of the slightest use. The others had no
imagination; they all objected to being called Smeraldina, and one of
them was named Smith!
I'm afraid I'm the first who ever had the impertinence to suggest
anything, Constance answered humbly.
This was not the sister Deering had known in his old life before he
fell victim to the prevailing May madness. She was in servitude and
evidently trying to make the best of it. She had been the jolliest, the
most high-spirited of girls, and to find her now meekly acting as
amanuensis to a lady whose very name he didn't know sent his
imagination stumbling through the blindest of dark alleys.
Only the near presence of Pierrette and her perfect composure and
good-nature checked his inclination to stand up and shout to relieve
I hope you don't mind my not turning up for breakfast, she
remarked in her low, bell-like tones.
Deering's hopes rose. That breakfast at the bungalow seemed the one
tangible incident of his twenty-four hours in Hood's company and,
perhaps, if he let her take the lead, he might find himself on solid
I'd been week-ending with Babette; she's an artist, you know, and
I'm posing for another of mamma's heroines. Babette got me up at
daylight to pose for the last picture and thenI skipped and left her
to manage the breakfast.
Her laugh as she said this established her identity beyond question.
For a moment the thought of the packages of worthless wrapping-paper he
had found in his suitcase chilled his happiness in finding her again;
but it had not been her fault; the unbroken seals fully established her
You understand, of course, that it's a dark secret that mother
writes. She had scribbled for her own amusement all her life, and
published 'The Madness of May' just to see what the public would do to
I understand that it's immensely amusing, remarked Deering,
thrilling as she turned toward him.
Oh, you haven't read it! she cried. Mamma, Mr. Tuck hasn't read
My young friend is just beginning his education, interposed Hood.
I unhesitatingly pronounce 'The Madness of May' a classicsomething
the tired world has been awaiting for years!
Right! cried Pantaloon. You are quite right, sir. 'The Madness of
May' isn't a novel, it's a text-book on happiness!
Truer words were never spoken! exclaimed Hood with enthusiasm.
Do you know, began Deering, when it was possible to address
Pierrette directly again, I don't believe I was built for this life. I
find myself checking off the alphabet on my fingers every few minutes
to see if I have gone plumb mad!
She bent toward him with entreaty in her eyes. He observed that they
were brown eyes! In the starlight he had been unable to judge of their
color, and he was chagrined that he hadn't guessed at that first
interview that she was a brown-eyed girl. Only a brown-eyed girl would
have hung a moon in a tree! Brown eyes are immensely eloquent of all
manner of pleasant thingssuch as mischief, mirth, and dreams.
Moreover, brown eyes are so highly sensitized that they receive and
transmit messages in the most secret of ciphers, and yet always with
circumspection. He was perfectly satisfied with Pierrette's eyes and
relieved that they were not blue, for blue eyes may be cold, and the
finest of black eyes are sometimes dull. Gray eyes alonemisty,
fathomless gray eyesshare imagination with brown ones. But neither a
blue-eyed nor a black-eyed nor a gray-eyed Pierrette was to be thought
of. Pierrette's eyes were brown, as he should have known, and what she
was saying to him was just what he should have expected once the color
of her eyes had been determined.
Please don't! You must never try to understand things like
this! You see grandpa and mamma love larking, and this is a lark. We're
always larking, you know.
Hood's voice rose commandingly:
Once when I was in jail in Utica
Deering regretted his shortness of leg that made it impossible to
kick his erratic companion under the table. But a chorus of approval
greeted this promising opening, and Hood continued relating with much
detail the manner in which he had once been incarcerated in company
with a pickpocket whose accomplishments and engaging personality he
described with gusto. There was no denying that Hood talked well, and
the strict attention he was receiving evoked his best efforts.
Deering, covertly glancing at his sister, found that she too hung
upon Hood's words. Her presence in the house still presented an enigma
with which his imagination struggled futilely, but no opportunity
seemed likely to offer for an exchange of confidences.
Constance was a thoroughbred and played her part flawlessly. Her
treatment by her employer left nothing to be desired; the amusing
little grandfather appealed to her now and then with unmistakable
liking, and the smiles that passed between her and Pierrette were
evidence of the friendliest relationship.
The dinner was served in a leisurely fashion that encouraged talk,
and Deering availed himself of every chance for a tête-à-tête with
Pierrette. She graciously came down out of the clouds and conversed of
things that were within his comprehensionof golf and polo for
exampleand then passed into the unknown again. But in no way did she
so much as hint at her identity. When she referred to her mother or
grandfather she employed the pseudonyms by which he already knew them.
While they were on the subject of polo he asked her if she had
witnessed a certain match.
Oh, yes, I was there! she replied. And, of course, I saw you; you
were the star performer. At tea afterward I saw you again, surrounded
by admirers. She laughed at his befuddlement. But it's against all
the rules to try to unmask me! Of course, I know you, but maybe you
will never know me!
I don't believe you are cruel enough to prolong my agony forever! I
can't stand this much longer!
Perhaps some day, she answered quietly and meeting his eager gaze
steadily, we shall meet just as the people of the world meet, and then
maybe you won't like me at all!
After this the world will never be the same planet again. Hereafter
my business will be to follow you
She broke in laughingly, even to the Little Dipper?
Even to the farthest star! he answered.
After coffee had been served in the drawing-room, Hood, again
dominating the company (much to Deering's disgust), suggested music.
Pierrette contributed a flashing, golden Chopin waltz and Pantaloon
Schubert's Serenade, which he played atrociously, whereupon Hood
announced that he would sing a Scotch ballad, which he proceeded to do
surprisingly well. The evening could not last forever, and Deering
chafed at his inability to detach Pierrette from the piano; but she was
most provokingly submissive to Hood's demand that the music continue.
Deering had protested that he didn't sing; he hated himself for not
He fidgeted awhile; then, finding the others fully preoccupied with
their musical experiments, quietly left the drawing-room. It had
occurred to him that Constance, who had disappeared when they left the
table, might be seeking a chance to speak to him and he strolled
through the library (a large room with books crowding to the ceiling)
to a glass door opening into a conservatory, which was dark save for
the light from the library. He was about to turn away when an outer
door opened furtively and Cassowary stepped in from the grounds. The
chauffeur glanced about nervously as though anxious to avoid detection.
As Deering watched him a shadow darted by, and his
sisterunmistakably Constance in the dark gown with its white collar
and cuffs that she had worn at dinnermoved swiftly toward the
chauffeur. She gave him both hands; he kissed her eagerly; then they
began talking earnestly. For several minutes Deering heard the blurred
murmur of rapid question and reply; then, evidently disturbed by an
outburst of merriment from the drawing-room, the two parted with
another hand-clasp and kiss, and Cassowary darted through the outer
Constance waited a moment, as though to compose herself, and then
began retracing her steps down the conservatory aisle. As she passed
his hiding-place Deering stepped out and seized her arm.
So this is what's in the wind, is it? he demanded roughly. I
suppose you don't know that that man's a bad lot, a worthless fellow
Hood picked up in the hope of reforming him! For all I know he may be
the chauffeur he pretends to be!
She freed herself and her eyes flashed angrily.
You don't know what you're saying! That man is a gentleman, and if
he went to pieces for a while it was my fault. I met him at the Drakes'
last year when you were away hunting in Canada. He came to our house
afterward, but for some reason father took one of his strong dislikes
to him, and forbade my seeing him again. I knew he was with this man
Hood, and when I left the table awhile ago I met him outside the
servants' dining-room and told him I would talk to him here.
What does he call himself? Deering asked.
Torrence is the name the Drakes gave him, she answered with faint
irony. He's a ranchman in Wyoming and was in Bob Drake's class in
He knew perfectly well that the Drakes were not people likely to
countenance an impostor. His first instinct had been to protect his
sister from an unknown scamp, and he was sorry that he had spoken to
her so roughly. Her distress and anxiety were apparent, and he was
filled with pity for her. Since childhood they had been the best of
pals, and if she loved a man who was worthy of her he would aid the
affair in every way possible. He was surprised by the abruptness with
which she stepped close to him and laid her hand on his arm.
Billy, who is Hood? she whispered.
I don't know! he ejaculated, and then as she eyed him curiously he
explained hurriedly: I was in an awful mess when he turned up, Connie.
I'd gone into a copper deal with Ned Ranscomb and needed more money to
help him through with it. I put in all I had and touched one of
father's boxes at the bank for some more and lost it, or didn't lose
it; God knows what did become of it! It would take a week to tell you
the whole story. Ranscomb disappeared, absolutely, and there I was! I
should have killed myself if that lunatic Hood hadn't turned up and
hypnotized me. But whatwhat (he fairly choked with the question),
in heaven's name are you doing here? Why did you cut out California? I
tell you, Connie, if I'm not crazy everybody else is! I nearly fainted
when you came into the dining-room.
Constance smiled at his despair, but hurried on with explanations:
We can't talk here, but I can clear up a few things. Father read
that woman's book, and it went to his head. Yes, she added as Deering
groaned in his helplessness, father's acting a good deal like those
people in the drawing-room. He's got the May madness, and I'm afraid
I've got a touch of it myself! Father started off to have adventures
like the people in that book and dragged me along to get my mind off
Billy swallowed this with a gulp.
But, Billy, Constance continued seriously, there's really
something on father's mind; he thinks he's looking for somebody, and
I'm not sure whether he is or not. That's how I come to be here. He
made me answer an advertisement and take this position to spy on these
My God! Deering gasped, gone clean mad, the whole bunch of us.
Who the deuce are these lunatics anyhow?
I don't know, Billy; honestly I don't! You know nearly as much
about them as I do. Their mail goes to a bank in town, and I met my
employer at a lawyer's office in Hartford. Father suspects something
and made me do it, so I might watch them. The mother and daughter have
been abroad a great deal, and just came home a month ago. I never saw
this man Hood until to-night. The mother and daughter and the old
gentleman call each other by the names you heard at the table, and the
books in the library are marked with half a dozen names. Even the
silver gives no clew. I've been here a week and only one person has
come to the house (she lowered her voice to a whisper), and that was
He clutched her hands, and the words he tried to utter became a
queer, inarticulate gurgle in his throat.
Ned came here to see a girl, she went on: an artist who made the
pictures for 'The Madness of May.' He's quite crazy about her. I did
get that much out of Pierrette. This artist's a victim of the madness
too, and seems to be leading Ned a gay dance!
Took my two hundred thousand and got me to steal two more, he
groaned, and then went chasing a girl all over creation! And the fool
always bragged that he was immune; that no girl
Another victim of the same disease, that's all, answered Constance
with a wry smile.
Not Ned; not Ranscomb! That settles it! We've all gone loony!
Well, even so, we mustn't be caught here, said Constance with
decision as the music ceased.
Tell me, quick, where can I find the governor? Deering demanded.
If you must know, Billy, she replied, her lips quivering
with mirth, our dear parent is in jailin jail! Tommy
collected those glad tidings at the garage.
Having launched this at her astounded brother, she pushed him from
her and ran away through the conservatory.
Tuck, my boy, you should cultivate the art of music! cried Hood as
Deering reappeared, somewhat pale but resigned to an unknown fate, in
the drawing-room. And now that ten has struck we must be on our way.
Madam, will you ring for Cassowary, the prince of chauffeurs, as we
must leave your hospitable home at once? He began making his adieus
with the greatest formality.
Mr. Tuck, said the mistress of the house as Deering gave her a
limp hand, you have conferred the greatest honor upon us. Please never
pass our door without stopping.
To-morrow, he said, turning to Pierrette, I shall find you
to-morrow, either here or in the Dipper!
Before you see me or the Dipper again, many things may happen! she
The triothe absurd little Pantaloon; Columbine, laughing and
gracious to the last, and Pierrette, smiling, charming,
adorablecheerily called good night from the door as Cassowary sent
the car hurrying out of the grounds.
Well, what do you think of the life of freedom now? demanded Hood
as the car reached the open road. Begin to have a little faith in me,
Well, you seemed to put it over, Deering admitted grudgingly. But
I can't go on this way, Hood; I really can't stand it. I've got to quit
My dear boy! Hood protested.
I've heard bad news about my father; one of theerservants back
there told me he was in jail!
Stop! bawled Hood. This is important if true! Cassowary, I've
told you time and again to bring me any news you pick up in servants'
halls. What have you heard about the arrest of a gentleman named
He's been pinched, all right, the chauffeur answered as he stopped
the car and turned round. The constables over at West Dempster are
trapping joy-riders, and they nailed Mr. Deering about sundown for
speeding. I learned that from the chauffeur at that house where you
Hood slapped his knee and chortled with delight.
There's work ahead of us! But probably he's bailed himself out by
Not on your life! Cassowary answered, and Deering marked a note of
jubilation in his tone, as though the thought of Mr. Deering's
incarceration gave him pleasure. The magistrate's away for the night,
and there's nobody there to fix bail. It's part of the treatment in
these parts to hold speed fiends a night or two.
Again Hood's hand fell upon Deering's knee.
A situation to delight the gods! he cried. Cassowary, old man, at
the next crossroads turn to the right and run in at the first gate.
There's a farmhouse in the midst of an orchard; we'll stop there and
change our clothes.
As the car started Deering whirled upon Hood and shook him violently
by the collar.
I'm sick of all this rot! I can't stand any more, I tell you. I'm
going to quit right here!
Hood drew his arm round him affectionately.
My dear son, have I failed you at any point? Have you ever in your
life had any adventures to compare with those you've had with me? Stop
whining and trust all to Hood!
Deering sank back into his corner with a growl of suppressed rage.
When they reached the farmhouse Hood drew out a key and opened the
front door with a proprietorial air.
Whose place is this? I want to know what I'm getting in for,
Deering demanded wrathfully.
Mine, dearest Tuck! Mine, and the taxes paid. I use it as a
rest-house for weary and jaded crooks, if that will ease your mind!
Cassowary struck matches and lighted candles, disclosing a
half-furnished room in great disorder. Old clothing, paper bags that
had contained food, a violin, and books in good bindings littered a
table in the middle of the floor, and articles of clothing were heaped
in confusion on a time-battered settle. The odor of stale pipe smoke
hung upon the air. Under an empty bottle on the mantel Hood found a
scrap of paper which he scanned for a moment and then tore into pieces.
Just a scratch from good old Fogarty; he's been taking the
rest-cure here between jobs. Skipped yesterday; same chap that left his
mark for me on that barn. One of the royal good fellows, Fogarty; does
his work neatlynever carries a gun or pots a cop; knows he can climb
out of any jail that ever was made, and that, son, gives any man a
joyful sense of ease and security. The Tombs might hold him, but he
avoids large cities; knows his limitations like a true man of genius.
Rare bird; thrifty doesn't describe him; he's just plain stingy; sells
stolen postage-stamps at par; the only living yegg that can put that
over! By George, I wouldn't be surprised if he couldn't sell 'em at a
As he talked he rummaged among the old clothes, chose a mud-splashed
pair of trousers, and bade Deering put them on, adding an even more
disreputable coat and hat. Cassowary helped himself to a change of
raiment, and Hood selected what seemed to be the worst of the lot.
Three suspicious characters will be noted by the constabulary of
West Dempster within two hours! cried Hood, hopping out of his dress
trousers. Into the calaboose we shall go, my dear Tuck! Never say that
I haven't a thought for your peace and happiness. It will give me joy
unfeigned to bring you face to face with your delightful parent.
Cassowary, my son, I'm going to hide those bills of yours in the lining
of my coat for safety. If they found ten thousand plunks on me, they'd
never let us go!
Hood! cried Deering in a voice moist with tears, for God's sake
what fool thing are you up to now?
I tell you we're going to jail! Hood answered jubilantly. You've
dined in good company with the most charming of girls at your side;
you've had a taste of the prosperous life; and now it's fitting that we
should touch the other extreme. The moment we step out of this shack
we're criminals, crooks, gallows meat; he rolled this last term under
his tongue unctuously. This will top all our other adventures. Here's
hoping Fogarty may have preceded us. The old boy likes to get pinched
occasionally just for the fun of it.
He was already blowing out the candles, and, seizing his stick, led
the way back to the highway, with Deering and Cassowary at his heels.
The car had been run into an old barn, which had evidently served Hood
before. Within twenty-four hours they would be touring again, he
announced. The change from his dress clothes to ill-fitting rags had
evidently wrought a change of mood. Between whiffs at his pipe he
sought consolation in Wagner, chanting bars of In fernem Land.
Cassowary, who had adjusted himself to this new situation without
question, whispered in Deering's ear: Don't kick; he's got something
up his sleeve. And he'll get you out of it; remember that! I've been in
jail with him before.
Deering drew away impatiently. He was in no humor to welcome
confidences from Torrence, alias Cassowary, whom his sister met
clandestinely and kissedthe kiss rankled! And yet it was
nothing against Cassowary that he had been following Hood about like an
infatuated fool. Deering knew himself to be equally culpable on that
score, and he was even now trudging after the hypnotic vagabond with a
country calaboose as their common goal. The chauffeur's interview with
Constance had evidently cheered him mightily, and he joined his voice
to Hood's in a very fair rendering of Ben Bolt. Deering swore under
his breath, angry at Hood, and furious that he had so little control of
a destiny that seemed urging him on to destruction.
At one o'clock West Dempster lay dark and silent before them. As
they crossed a bridge into the town Hood began to move cautiously.
Remember that we give up without a struggle: there's too much at
stake to risk a bullet now, and these country lumpkins shoot first, and
hand you their cards afterward.
He dived into an alley, and emerged midway of a block where a number
of barrels under a shed awning advertised a grocery.
Admirable! whispered Hood, throwing his arms about his comrades.
We will now arouse the watch.
With this he kicked a barrel into the gutter, and jumped back like a
mischievous boy into the shelter of the alley. Footsteps were heard in
a moment, far down the street.
These country cops are sometimes shrewd, but often the silly
children of convention like the rest of us. West Dempster has an evil
reputation in the underworld. The pinching of joy-riders is purely
incidental; they run in anybody they catch after the curfew sounds from
the coffin factory.
A window overhead opened with a bang, and a blast from a police
whistle pierced the air shrilly. Deering started to run, but Hood upset
him with a thrust of his foot. Two men were already creeping up behind
them in the alley; the owner of the grocery stole out of the front door
in a long nightgown and began howling dismally for help.
Throw up your hands, boys; it's no use! cried Hood in mock
Then the man in the nightgown, after menacing Hood with a pistol,
stuck the barrel of it into Deering's mouth, opened inopportunely to
protest his innocence. The policemen threw themselves upon Hood and
Cassowary, toppled them over, and flashed electric lamps in their
More o' them yeggs, announced one of the officers with
satisfaction as he snapped a pair of handcuffs on Cassowary's wrists.
Don't you fellows try any monkey-shines or we'll plug you full o'
lead. Trot along now.
The gentleman in the night-robe wished to detain the party for a
recital of his own prowess in giving warning of the attempted burglary.
The police were disposed to make light of his assistance, while Hood
hung back to support the grocer's cause, a generosity on his part that
was received ill-temperedly by the officers of the law. They bade the
grocer report to the magistrate Monday morning, and they parted, but
only after Hood had shaken the crestfallen grocer warmly by the hand,
warning him with the greatest solicitude against further exposure to
the night air. Two other policemen appeared; the whole force was doing
them honor, Hood declared proudly. He lifted his voice in song, but the
lyrical impulse was hushed by a prod from a revolver. He continued to
talk, however, assuring his captors of his heartiest admiration for
their efficiency. He meant to recommend them for positions in the
secret servicemen of their genius were wasted upon a country town.
[Illustration: Throw up your hands, boys; it's no use! cried Hood
in mock despair.]
When they reached the town hall a melancholy jailer roused himself
and conducted them to the lockup in the rear of the building. Careful
search revealed nothing but a mass of crumpled clippings and a pipe and
tobacco in Hood's pockets.
Guess they dropped their tools somewhere, muttered one of the
My dear boy, explained Hood, the gentleman in the nightie, whom I
take to be a citizen and merchant of standing in your metropolis, may
be able to assist you in finding them. We left our safe-blowing
apparatus in a chicken-coop in his back yard.
They were entered on the blotter as R. Hood, F. Tuck, and Cass
O'Wearythe last Hood spelled with the utmost care for the scowling
turnkeyand charged with attempt to commit burglary and arson.
Hood grumbled; he had hoped it would be murder or piracy on the high
seas; burglary and arson were so commonplace, he remarked with a sigh.
The door closed upon them with an echoing clang, and they found
themselves in a large coop, bare save for several benches ranged along
the walls. Two of these were occupied by prisoners, one of whom, a
short, thick-set man, snored vociferously. Hood noted his presence with
Fogarty! he whispered with a triumphant wave of his hand.
A tall man who had chosen a cot as remote as possible from his
fellow prisoner sat up and, seeing the newcomers, stalked majestically
to the door and yelled dismally for the keeper, who lounged
indifferently to the cage, puffing a cigar.
This is an outrage! roared the prisoner. Locking me up with these
felonsthese common convicts! I demand counsel; I'm going to have a
writ of habeas corpus! When I get out of here I'm going to go to the
governor of your damned State and complain of this. All Connecticut
shall know of it! All America shall hear of it! To be locked up with
one safe-blower is enough, and now you've stuck three murderers into
this rotten hole. I tell you I can give bail. I tell you
The jailer snarled and bade him be quiet. In the tone of a man who
is careful of his words he threatened the direst punishment for any
further expression of the gentleman's opinions. Whereupon the gentleman
seized the bars and shook them violently, and then, as though satisfied
that they were steel of the best quality, dropped his arms to his sides
with a gesture of impotent despair.
In spite of Constance's assertion, confirmed by Cassowary, Deering
had not believed that his father was in jail; but the outraged
gentleman who had demanded the writ of habeas corpus was, beyond
question, Samuel J. Deering, head of the banking-house of Deering,
Gaylord &Co. Mr. Deering was striding toward his bench with the sulky
droop of a premium batter who has struck out with the bases full.
Scorning to glance at the creature in rags who had flung himself in
his path, Samuel J. Deering lunged at him fiercely with his right arm.
Billy, ducking opportunely, saved his indignant parent from tumbling
upon the floor by catching him in his arms. Feeling that he had been
attacked by a ruffian, Mr. Deering yelled that he was being murdered.
I'm Billy! For God's sake, be quiet!
The senior Deering tottered to the wall.
Billy! What are you in for? he demanded finally.
Burglary, arson, and little things like that, Billy answered with
a jauntiness that surprised him as much as it pained his father, who
continued to stare uncomprehendingly.
You've been reading that damned book, too, have you? he whispered
hoarsely in his son's ear. You've gone crazy like everybody else, have
I've been kidnapped, if that's what you mean, Billy answered with
a meaningful glance over his shoulder, and then with a fine attempt at
bravado: I'm Friar Tuck, and that chap smoking a pipe is Robin Hood.
Ordinarily his father's sense of humor could be trusted to respond
to an intelligent appeal. A slow grin had overspread Mr. Deering's face
as Friar Tuck was mentioned, but when Billy added Robin Hood his
father's countenance underwent changes indicative of hope, fear, and
chagrin. Clinging to Billy's shoulder, he peered through the gloom of
the cage toward Hood, who lay on a bench, his coat rolled up for a
pillow, tranquilly smoking, with his eyes fixed upon the steel roof.
Hood! Mr. Deering walked slowly toward Hood's bench.
Hood sat up, took his pipe from his mouth, and nodded.
Hood, this is my father, said Billy.
A great pleasure, I'm sure, Hood responded courteously, extending
his hand. I suppose it was inevitable that we should meet sooner or
later, Mr. Deering.
Youyou are BobBobTyringham? asked Deering anxiously.
Right! cried Hood in his usual assured manner. And I will say for
you that you have given me a good chase. I confess that I didn't think
you capable of it; I swear I didn't! Tuck, I congratulate you; your
father is one of the true brotherhood of the stars. He's been chasing
me for a month and, by Jove, he's kept me guessing! But when I heard
that he'd been jailed for speeding, with a prospect of spending Sunday
in this hole, I decided that it was time to throw down the mask.
Lights began to dance in the remote recesses of Billy's mind. Hood
was Robert Tyringham, for whom his father held as trustee two million
dollars. Tyringham had not been heard of in years. The only son of a
most practical father, he had been from youth a victim of the
wanderlust, absenting himself from home for long periods. For ten
years he had been on the list of the missing. That Hood should be this
man was unbelievable. But the senior Deering seemed not to question his
identity. He sat down with a deep sigh and then began to laugh.
If I hadn't found you by next Wednesday, I should have had to turn
your property over to a dozen charitable institutions provided for by
your father's willand, by George, I've been fighting a temptation to
steal it! His arms clasped Billy's shoulder convulsively. It's been
horrible, ghastly! I've been afraid I might find you and afraid I
wouldn't! I tell you it's been hell. I've spent thousands of dollars
trying to find you, fearing one day you might turn up, and the next day
afraid you wouldn't. And, you know, Tyringham, your father was my
dearest friend; that's what made it all so horrible. I want you to know
about it, Billy; I want you to know the worst about me; I'm not the man
you thought me. When I started away with Constance and told you I was
going to California I decided to make a last effort to find Tyringham.
I read a damned novel that acted on me like a poison; that's why I've
made a fool of myself in a thousand ways, thinking that by masquerading
over the country I might catch Tyringham at his own game. And now you
know what I might have been; you see what I was trying to bea common
thief, a betrayer of a sacred trust.
Don't talk like that, father, began Billy, shaken by his father's
humility. I guess we're in the same hole, only I'm in deeper. I tried
to rob you. I tried to steal some of that Tyringham money
Hood, wishing to leave the two alone for their further confidences,
walked to the recumbent Fogarty, roused him with a dig in the ribs, and
conferred with him in low tones.
You took the stuff from my box, Billy? Mr. Deering asked.
Billy waited apprehensively for what might follow. It was possible
that his father had already robbed the Tyringham estate; the thought
chilled him into dejection.
I had stolen it. My God, I couldn't help it! Deering
groaned. I left that waste paper in the box to fool myself, and put
the real stuff in another place. I hopedyes, that was it, I
hopedI'd never find Tyringham and I could keep those bonds. But all
the time I kept looking for him. You see, Billy, I couldn't be as bad
as I wanted to be; and yet
He drew his hand across his face as though to shut out the picture
he saw of himself as a felon.
Oh, you wouldn't have done it; you couldn't have done it! cried
Billy, anxious to mitigate his father's misery. If you hadn't hidden
the real bonds, I'd have been a thief! Ned Ranscomb was trying to
corner Mizpah and needed my help. I put in all I hadthat two hundred
thousand you gave me my last birthday, and then he skipped. When I get
hold of him!
You put two hundred thousand in Mizpah?
I did, like a fool, and, of course, it's lost! Ned went daffy about
a girl and dropped Mizpahand my money!
Mr. Deering was once more a business man. What did Ranscomb buy
at? he asked curtly.
Seven and a quarter.
Then you needn't kick Ned! The Ranscombs put through their deal and
Mizpah's gone to forty!
Hood rejoined them, and they talked till daylight. He told them much
of himself. The responsibility of a great fortune had not appealed to
him; he had been honest in his preference for the vagabond life, but
realized, now that he was well launched upon middle age, that it was
only becoming and decent for him to alter his ways. Billy's liking for
him, that had struggled so rebelliously against impatience and
distrust, warmed to the heartiest admiration.
Of course I knew you were married, the senior Deering remarked for
Billy's enlightenment, and now and then I got glimpses of you in your
gypsy life. Your wife had a fortune of her ownshe was one of Augustus
Davis's daughtersso of course she hasn't suffered from your
My wife shared my tastes; there has never been the slightest
trouble between us. Our daughter is just like us. But now Mrs.
Tyringham thinks we ought to settle down and be respectable.
I knew your wife and daughter had come home. I had got that far,
Mr. Deering resumed. And after I began to suspect that you and Hood
were the same person I put my own daughter into your house on the
Dempster road as a spy to watch for you.
My wife wasn't fooled for a minute, Hood chuckled. We were having
our last fling before we settled down for the rest of our days. We all
have the same weakness for a springtime lark: my wife, my daughter, and
Billy ran his hands through his hair. Pierrette! Pierrette is your
Certainly, replied Hood; and Columbine, the dearest woman in the
world, is my wife, and Pantaloon my father-in-law. In my affair with
you there was only one coincidence: everything else was planned. It was
Pierrette, whose real name is RobertaBobby for short, when we're not
playing a game of some sortBobby really did lift your suitcase by
mistake. And it was stowed away in Cassowary's car when I came to your
house intending to return it. But when I saw that you needed diversion
I decided to give you a whirl. It was an easy matter for Cassowary to
move the suitcase to the bungalow, where you found it. I steered you to
the house on purpose to see how you and Bobby would hit it off. The
result seems to have been satisfactory!
Cassowary turned uneasily on his bench.
And before we quit all this foolishness, Hood resumed with a
glance at the chauffeur, there's one thing I want to ask you, Mr.
Deering, as a special favor. That chap lying over there is Tommy
Torrence, whom you kicked off your door-step for daring to love your
daughter. He's one of the best fellows in the world. Just because his
father, the old senator, didn't quite hit it off with you in a railroad
deal before Tommy was born is no reason why you should take it out on
the boy. He started for the bad after you made a row over his
attentions to your daughter, but he's been with me six months and he's
as right and true a chap as ever lived. You've got to fix it up with
him or I'llI'llwell, I'll be pretty hard on your boy if he ever
wants to break into my family!
With this Hood rose and drew from his pocket a handful of newspaper
clippings which he threw into the air and watched flutter to the floor.
Those are some of your advertisements offering handsome rewards for
news of me dead or alive. In collecting them I've had a mighty good
time. Let's all go to sleep; to-morrow night the genial Fogarty will
get us out of this. He's over there now sawing the first bar of that
A year has passed and it is May again and the last day of that month
of enchantment. There has been a house-party at the Deering place at
Radford Hills. Constance came from Wyoming to spend May with her
father, bringing with her, of course, her husband, sometime known as
Cassowary, who has been elected to the legislature of his State and,
may, it is reported, be governor one of these days. The Tyringhams are
there, and this includes Robert Tyringham, alias R. Hood, and
his wife (whose authorship of The Madness of May, has not yet been
acknowledged) and also her father, Augustus Davis, who continues to
find recreation in frequent attacks upon any inoffensive piano that
gets in his way. Mr. and Mrs. Edward Ranscomb, too, have shared Mr.
Deering's hospitality. Marriage has not interrupted Mrs. Ranscomb's
career as an artist, though she has dropped illustrating, and is
specializing in children's portraits with distinguished success.
The senior Deering, wholly at peace with his conscience, does not
work as hard as he used to before his taste of adventurous life gained
in the pursuit of Hood. He is very proud of his daughter-in-law, whose
brown eyes bring constant cheer and happiness to his table. If she does
not hang moons in trees any more, she is still quite capable of doing
so, and has no idea of permitting her husband to wear himself out in
the banking-house. They are going to keep some time every year for
play, she declares, to the very end of their lives.
Hood had been devoting himself assiduously to mastering the details
of his business affairs, living as other men do, keeping regular office
hours in a tall building with an outlook toward the sea, and taking his
recreation on the golf-links every other afternoon.
Mamma has been nervous all this month about papa, Roberta (known
otherwise as Pierrette or Bobby) was saying as she and Billy slowly
paced the veranda. But now May is over and he hasn't shown any
disposition to run away. I suppose he's really cured. There was a
tinge of regret in her last words.
Yes, Billy replied carelessly. He hasn't mentioned his old roving
days lately. I think he's even sensitive about having them referred
But even if he should want to go, mamma wouldn't break her heart
about it. She feels that it's really something fine in him: his love of
the out-of-doors, and adventures, and knowing all sorts and conditions
of men. And he has really helped lots of people, just as he helped you.
And he always had so much fun when we all played gypsy, or he went off
alone and came back with no end of good stories. I'm just a little
They paused, clasping hands and looking off at the starry canopy.
Suddenly from the side of the house a man walked slowly, hesitatingly.
He stopped, turned, glanced at the veranda, and then, sniffing the air,
walked rapidly toward the gate, swinging a stick, his face lifted to
Bobby's hand clasped Billy's more tightly as they watched in
It's papa; he's taking to the road again! she murmured.
But he'll come back; it won't be for long this time. I haven't the
heart to stop him!
No, she said softly, it would be cruel to do that.
The lamps at the gate shone upon Robert Tyringham as he paused and
then, with a characteristic flourish of his stick, turned westward and
strode away into the night.