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A Man and His Money by Frederic Stewart Isham

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A MAN AND HIS MONEY

_By_

FREDERIC S. ISHAM

_Author of_

Under the Rose, Half a Chance,
The Social Bucaneer, Etc.

ILLUSTRATIONS BY

MAX J. SPERO

1912

A MAN AND HIS MONEY

CHAPTER I

THE COACH OF CONCORD

"Well? What can I do for you?"

The speaker--a scrubby little man--wheeled in the rickety office chair
to regard some one hesitating on his threshold. The tones were not
agreeable; the proprietor of the diminutive, run-down establishment,
"The St. Cecilia Music Emporium," was not, for certain well defined
reasons, in an amiable mood that morning. He had been about to reach
down for a little brown jug which reposed on the spot usually allotted
to the waste paper basket when the shadow of the new-comer fell
obtrusively, not to say offensively, upon him.

It was not a reassuring shadow; it seemed to spring from an
indeterminate personality. Mr. Kerry Mackintosh repeated his question
more bruskly; the shadow (obviously not a customer,--no one ever sought
Mr. Mackintosh's wares!) started; his face showed signs of a vacillating
purpose.

"A mistake! Beg pardon!" he murmured with exquisite politeness and began
to back out, when a somewhat brutal command on the other's part to "shut
that d---- door d---- quick, and not let any more d---- hot air out"
arrested the visitor's purpose. Instead of retreating, he advanced.

"I beg pardon, were you addressing me?" he asked. The half apologetic
look had quite vanished.

The other considered, muttered at length in an aggrieved tone something
about hot air escaping and coal six dollars a ton, and ended with: "What
do you want?"

"Work." The visitor's tone relapsed; it was now conspicuous for its want
of "success waves"; it seemed to imply a definite cognizance of
personal uselessness. He who had brightened a moment before now spoke
like an automaton. Mr. Mackintosh looked at him and his shabby garments.
He had a contempt for shabby garments--on others!

"Good day!" he said curtly.

But instead of going, the person coolly sat down. The proprietor of the
little shop glanced toward the door and half started from his chair.
Whereupon the visitor smiled; he had a charming smile in these moments
of calm equipoise, it gave one an impression of potential possibilities.
Mr. Mackintosh sank back into his chair.

"Too great a waste of energy!" he murmured, and having thus defined his
attitude, turned to a "proof" of new rag-time. This he surveyed
discontentedly; struck out a note here, jabbed in another there. The
stranger watched him at first casually. By sundry signs the caller's
fine resolution and assurance seemed slowly oozing from him; perhaps he
began to have doubts as to the correctness of his position, thus to
storm a man in his own castle, or office--even if it were such a
disreputable-appearing office!

He shifted his feet thoughtfully; a thin lock of dark hair drooped more
uncertainly over his brow; he got up. The composer dashed a blithe
flourish to the tail of a note.

"Hold on," he said. "What's your hurry?" Sarcastically.

"Didn't know I was in a hurry!" There was no attempted levity in his
tone,--he spoke rather listlessly, as one who had found the world, or
its problems, slightly wearisome. The composer-publisher now arose; a
new thought had suddenly assailed him.

"You say you are looking for work. Why did you drift in here?"

"The place looked small. Those big places have no end of applicants--"

"Shouldn't think that would phase you. With _your_ nerve!"

The visitor flushed. "I seem to have made rather a mess of it," he
confessed. "I usually do. Good day."

"A moment!" said Mr. Mackintosh. "One of my men"--he emphasized "one,"
as if their number were legion--"disappointed me this morning. I expect
he's in the lockup by this time. Have you got a voice?"

"A what?"

"Can you sing?"

"I really don't know; haven't ever tried, since"--a wonderful
retrospection in his tones--"since I was a little chap in church and
wore white robes."

"Huh!" ejaculated the proprietor of the Saint Cecilia shop. "Mama's
angel boy! That must have been a long time ago." The visitor did not
answer; he pushed back uncertainly the uncertain lock of dark hair and
seemed almost to have forgotten the object of his visit.

"Now see here"--Mr. Mackintosh's voice became purposeful, energetic; he
seated himself before a piano that looked as if it had led a hard
nomadic existence. "Now see here!" Striking a few chords. "Suppose you
try this stunt! _What's the Matter with Mother_? My own composition!
Kerry Mackintosh at his best! Now twitter away, if you've any of that
angel voice left!"

The piano rattled; the new-comer, with a certain faint whimsical smile
as if he appreciated the humor of his position, did "twitter away"; loud
sounds filled the place. Quality might be lacking but of quantity there
was a-plenty.

"Bully!" cried Mr. Mackintosh enthusiastically. "That'll start the tears
rolling. _What's the Matter with Mother_? Nothing's the matter with
mother. And if any one says there is--Will it go? With that voice?" He
clapped his hand on the other's shoulder. "Why, man, they could hear you
across Madison Square. You've a voice like an organ. Is it a 'go'?" he
demanded.

"I don't think I quite understand," said the new-comer patiently.

"You don't, eh? Look there!"

A covered wagon had at that moment stopped before the door. It was drawn
by a horse whose appearance, like that of the piano, spoke more
eloquently of services in the past than of hopeful promises for the
future. On the side of the vehicle appeared in large letters: "_What's
the Matter with Mother_? Latest Melodic Triumph by America's Greatest
Composer, Mr. Kerry Mackintosh." A little to the left of this
announcement was painted a harp, probably a reminder of the one Saint
Cecilia was supposed to have played. This sentimental symbol was
obviously intended to lend dignity and respectability to the otherwise
disreputable vehicle of concord and its steed without wings, waiting
patiently to be off--or to lie down and pay the debt of nature!

"Shall we try it again, angel voice?" asked Mr. Mackintosh, playing the
piano, or "biffing the ivories," as he called it.

"Drop it," returned the visitor, "that 'angel' dope."

"Oh, all right! Anything to oblige."

Before this vaguely apologetic reply, the new-comer once more relapsed
into thoughtfulness. His eye passed dubiously over the vehicle of
harmony; he began to take an interest in the front door as if again
inclined to "back out." Perhaps a wish that the horse _might_ lie down
and die at this moment (no doubt he would be glad to!) percolated
through the current of his thoughts. That would offer an easy solution
to the proposal he imagined would soon be forthcoming--that _was_
forthcoming--and accepted. Of course! What alternative remained? Needs
must when an empty pocket drives. Had he not learned the lesson--beggars
must not be choosers?

"And now," said Mr. Mackintosh with the air of a man who had cast from
his shoulders a distinct problem, "that does away with the necessity of
bailing the other chap out. What's your name?"

The visitor hesitated. "Horatio Heatherbloom."

The other looked at him keenly. "The right one," he said softly.

"You've got the only one you'll get," replied the caller, after an
interval.

Mr. Mackintosh bestowed upon him a knowing wink. "Sounds like a _nom de
plume_," he chuckled. "What was your line?"

"I don't understand."

"What did you serve time for? Shoplifting?"

"Oh, no," said the other calmly.

"Burglarizing?" With more respect in his tones.

"What do you think?" queried the caller in the same mild voice.

"Not ferocious-looking enough for that lay, I should have thought.
However, you can't always tell by appearances. Now, I wonder--"

"What?" observed Mr. Heatherbloom, after an interval of silence.

"Yes! By Jove!" Mr. Mackintosh was speaking to himself. "It might
work--it might add interest--" Mr. Heatherbloom waited patiently. "Would
you have any objections," earnestly, "to my making a little addenda to
the sign on the chariot of cadence? _What's the Matter with Mother_?
'The touching lyric, as interpreted by Horatio Heatherbloom, the
reformed burglar'?"

"I _should_ object," observed the caller.

"My boy--my boy! Don't be hasty. Take time to think. I'll go further;
I'll paint a few iron bars in front of the harp. Suggestive of a
prisoner in jail thinking of mother. Say 'yes'."

"No."

"Too bad!" murmured Mr. Mackintosh in disappointed but not altogether
convinced tones. "You could use another alias, you know. If you're
afraid the police might pipe your game and nab--"

"Drop it, or--"

"All right, Mr. Heatherbloom, or any other blooming name!" Recovering
his jocular manner. "It's not for me to inquire the 'why,' or care a rap
for the 'wherefore.' Ethics hasn't anything to do with the realm of
art."

As he spoke he reached under the desk and took out the jug. "Have some?"
extending the tumbler.

The thin lips of the other moved, his hand quickly extended but was
drawn as suddenly back. "Thanks, but I'm on the water wagon, old chap."

"Well, I'm not. Do you know you said that just like a gentleman--to the
manner born."

"A gentleman? A moment ago I was a reformed burglar."

"You might be both."

Mr. Heatherbloom looked into space; Mr. Mackintosh did not notice a
subtle change of expression. That latter gentleman's rapt gaze was
wholly absorbed by the half-tumblerful he held in mid air. But only for
a moment; the next, he was smacking his lips. "We'll have a bite to eat
and then go," he now said more cheerfully. "Ready for luncheon?"

"I could eat"

"Had anything to-day?"

"Maybe."

"And maybe, not!" Half jeeringly. "Why don't you say you've been
training down, taking the go-without-breakfast cure? Say, it must be
hell looking for a job when you've just 'got out'!"

"How do you know I just 'got out'?"

"You look it, and--there's a lot of reasons. Come on."

Half an hour or so later the covered wagon drove along Fourteenth
street. Near the curb, not far from the corner of Broadway, it separated
itself from the concourse of vehicles and stopped. Close by, nickel
palaces of amusement exhibited their yawning entrances, and into these
gilded maws floated, from the human current on the sidewalk, a stream of
men, women and children. Encamped at the edge of this eddy, Mr.
Mackintosh sounded on the nomadic piano, now ensconced within the coach
of concord, the first triumphal strains of the maternal tribute in
rag-time.

He and the conspiring instrument were concealed in the depths of the
vehicle from the gaze of the multitude, but Mr. Heatherbloom at the back
faced them on the little step which served as concert stage. There were
no limelights or stereopticon pictures to add to the illusion,--only the
disconcerting faces and the light of day. He never before knew how
bright the day could be but he continued to stand there, in spite of the
ludicrous and trying position. He sang, a certain daredevil light in
his eye now, a suspicion of a covert smile on his face. It might be
rather tragic--his position--but it was also a little funny.

His voice didn't sound any better out of doors than it did in; the
"angel" quality of the white-robed choir days had departed with the soul
of the boy. Perhaps Mr. Heatherbloom didn't really feel the pathos of
the selection; at any rate, those tears Mr. Mackintosh had prophesied
would be rolling down the cheeks of the listening multitude weren't
forthcoming. One or two onlookers even laughed.

"Pigs! Swine!" murmured the composer, now passing through the crowd with
copies of the song. He sold a few, not many; on the back step Mr.
Heatherbloom watched with faint sardonic interest.

"Have I earned my luncheon yet?" he asked the composer when that
aggrieved gentleman, jingling a few dimes, returned to the equipage of
melody.

"Haven't counted up," was the gruff reply. "Give 'em another verse! They
ain't accustomed to it yet. Once they git to know it, every boot-black
in town will be whistling that song. Don't I know? Didn't I write it?
Ain't they all had mothers?"

"Maybe they're all Topsies and 'just growed'," suggested Mr.
Heatherbloom.

"Patience!" muttered the other. "The public may be a little coy at
first, but once they git started they'll be fighting for copies. So
encore, my boy; hammer it into them. We'll get them; you see!"

But the person addressed didn't see, at least with Mr. Mackintosh's
clairvoyant vision. Mr. Heatherbloom's gaze wandering quizzically from
the little pool of mask-like faces had rested on a great shining
motor-car approaching--slowly, on account of the press of traffic. In
this wide luxurious vehicle reposed a young girl, slender, exquisite; at
her side sat a big, dark, distinguished-appearing man, with a closely
cropped black beard; a foreigner--most likely Russian.

The girl was as beautiful as the dainty orchids with which the superb
car was adorned, and which she, also, wore in her gown--yellow orchids,
tenderly fashioned but very insistent and bright. Upon this patrician
vision Mr. Heatherbloom had inadvertently looked, and the pathetic
plaint regarding "Mother" died on the wings of nothingness. With
unfilial respect he literally abandoned her and cast her to the winds.
His eyes gleamed as they rested on the girl; he seemed to lose himself
in reverie.

Did she, the vision in orchids, notice him? Perhaps! The chauffeur at
that moment increased the speed of the big car; but as it dashed past,
the crimson mouth of the beautiful girl tightened and hardened into a
straight line and those wonderful starlike eyes shone suddenly with a
light as hard as steel. Disdainful, contemptuous; albeit, perhaps,
passionate! Then she, orchids, shining car and all were whirled on.

Rattle! bang! went the iron-rimmed wheels of other rougher vehicles.
Bing! bang! sounded the piano like a soul in torment.

Horatio Heatherbloom stood motionless; then his figure swayed slightly.
He lifted the music, as if to shield his features from the others--his
many auditors; but they didn't mind that brief interruption; it afforded
a moment for that rough and ready dialogue which a gathering of this
kind finds to its liking.

"Give him a trokee! Anybody got a cough drop?"

"It's soothing syrup he wants."

"No; it's us wants that."

"What the devil--" Mr. Mackintosh looked out of the wagon.

Mr. Heatherbloom suddenly laughed, a forced reckless laugh. "Guess it
was the dampness. I'm like some artists--have to be careful where I
sing."

"Have a tablet, feller, do!" said a man in the audience.

Horatio looked him in the eye. "Maybe it's you want something."

The facetious one began to back away; he had seen that look before, the
steely glint that goes before battle.

"The chord now, if you please!" said Mr. Heatherbloom to the composer
in a still quiet voice.

Mr. Mackintosh hit viciously; Mr. Heatherbloom sang again; he did more
than that. He outdid himself; he employed bombast,--some thought it
pathos. He threw a tremolo into his voice; it passed for emotion. He
"caught 'em", in Mr. Mackintosh's parlance, and "caught 'em hard". Some
more people bought copies. The alert Mr. Mackintosh managed to gather in
about a dollar, and saw, in consequence, great fortune "coming his way"
at last; the clouds had a golden lining.

"Say, you're the pard I've been a-looking for!" he jubilantly told Mr.
Heatherbloom as they prepared to move on. "We'll make a beautiful team.
Isn't it a peach?"

"What?"

"That song. It made them look like a rainy day. Git up!" And Mr.
Mackintosh prodded the bony ribs of their steed.

Mr. Heatherbloom absent-mindedly gazed in the direction the big shining
motor had vanished.

CHAPTER II

VARYING FORTUNES

Mr. Heatherbloom's new-found employment proved but ephemeral. The next
day the sheriff took possession of the music emporium and all it
contained, including the nomadic piano and the now empty jug. The
contents of the last the composer-publisher took care to put beyond
reach of his many creditors whom he, in consequence, faced with a
seemingly care-free, if artificial, jocularity. Mr. Heatherbloom walked
soberly forth from the shop of concord.

He had but turned the corner of the street when into the now dissonant
"hole in the wall", amid the scene of wreck and disaster, stepped a tall
dark man, with a closely cropped beard, who spoke English with an accent
and who regarded the erstwhile proprietor and the minions of the law
with ill-concealed arrogance and disfavor.

"You have," he began in halting tones, "a young man here who sings on
the street like the minstrels of old, the--what you call
them?--troubadours."

"We _had_," corrected Mr. Mackintosh. "He has just 'jumped the coup,' or
rather been 'shooed out'."

The new-comer fastened his gaze upon the other; he had superb, almost
mesmeric eyes. "Will you kindly speak the language as I understand it?"
he said. And the other did, for there was that in the caller's manner
which compelled immediate compliance. Immovably he listened to the
composer-publisher's explanation.

"_Eh bien!"_ he said, his handsome, rather barbaric head high when Mr.
Mackintosh had concluded. "He is gone; it is well; I have fulfilled my
mission." And walking out, the imposing stranger hailed a taxi and
disappeared from the neighborhood.

Meanwhile Mr. Horatio Heatherbloom had walked slowly on; he was now
some distance from the one-time "emporium." Where should he go? His
fortunes had not been enhanced materially by his brief excursion into
the realms of melody; he had thirty cents in cash and a
"dollar-and-a-half appetite." An untidy place where they displayed a
bargain assortment of creature comforts attracted his gaze. He thought
of meals in the past--of caviar, a la Russe, three dollars and a half a
portion; peaches Melba, three francs each at the Cafe de Paris; truffled
capon from Normandy; duck after the manner of the incomparable Frederic.
About half a dozen peaches Melba would have appealed to him now; he
looked, instead, with the eyes of longing at a codfish ball. Oh,
glorious appetite, mocking recollections of hours of satiety!

Should he yield to temptation? He stopped; then prudence prevailed. The
day was yet too young to give way recklessly to casual gastronomic
allurements, so he stepped on again quickly, averting his head from shop
windows. Lest his caution and conservatism might give way, he started
to turn into a side street--but didn't.

Instead, he laughed slightly to himself. What! flee from an outpost of
time-worn celery? beat an inglorious retreat before a phalanx of
machine-made pies? He would look them (figuratively) in the eye. Having,
as it were, fairly stared out of countenance the bland pies and beamed
with stern contempt upon the "droopy," Preraphaelite celery, he went,
better satisfied, on his way. It is these little victories that count;
at that moment Mr. Heatherbloom marched on like a knight of old for
steadfastness of purpose. His lips veiled a covert smile, as if behind
the hard mask of life he saw something a little odd and whimsical,
appealing to some secret sense of humor that even hunger could not
wholly annihilate. The lock of hair seemed to droop rather pathetically
at that moment; his sensitive features were slightly pinched; his face
was pale. It would probably be paler before the day was over;
_n'importe!_ The future had to be met--for better, or worse. Multitudes
passed this way and that; an elevated went crashing by; devastating
influences seemed to surround him. His slender form stiffened.

When next he stopped it was to linger, not in front of an eating
establishment, but before a bulletin-board upon which was pasted a page
of newspaper "want ads" for "trained" men, in all walks of life.
"Trained" men? Hateful word! How often had he encountered it! Ah, here
was one advertisement without the "trained"; he devoured it eagerly. The
item, like an oasis in the desert of his general incapacity and
uselessness, exercised an odd fascination for him in spite of the
absolute impossibility of his professing to possess a fractional part of
those moral attributes demanded by the fair advertiser. She--a Miss Van
Rolsen--was seeking a paragon, not a person. Nevertheless, he resolved
to assail the apparently unassailable, and repaired to a certain
ultrafashionable neighborhood of the town.

Before a brownstone front that bore the number he sought, he paused a
moment, drew a deep breath and started to walk up the front steps. But
with a short laugh he came suddenly to a halt half-way up; looked over
the stone balustrade down at the other entrance below--the
tradesmen's--the butchers', the bakers', the candlestick makers'--and,
yes, the servants'--their way in!--his?

He went down the steps and walked on and away as a matter of course, but
once more stopped. He had done a good deal of going this way and that,
and then stopping, during the last few months. Things had to be worked
out, and sometimes his brain didn't seem to move very quickly.

To be worked out! He now surveyed the butchers' and the bakers' (and
yes, the servants') entrance with casual or philosophic interest from
the vantage point of the other side of the street. It wasn't different
from any other of the entrances of the kind but it held his gaze. Then
he walked across the street again and went in--or down. It didn't really
seem now such a bad kind of entrance when you came to investigate it, in
a high impersonal way; not half so bad as the subway, and people didn't
mind that.

Still Mr. Heatherbloom experienced a peculiar thrill when he put up his
thumb, pressed a button, and wondered what next would happen. Who
answered doors down here,--the maid--the cook--the laundress? He felt
himself to be very indistinct and vague standing there in the shadow,
and tried to assume a nonchalant bearing. He wondered just what bearing
_was_ proper under the circumstances; he cherished indistinct
recollections of having heard or read that the butcher's boy is usually
favored with a broadly defying and independent visage; that he comes in
whistling and goes forth swaggering. A cat-meat man he had once looked
upon from the upper lodge of front steps somewhere in the dim long ago,
had possessed a melancholy manner and countenance.

How should he comport himself; what should he say--when the inevitable
happened; when the time came to say something? How lead the conversation
by natural and easy stages to the purport of his visit? He rehearsed a
few sentences, then straightway forgot them. Why did they keep him
waiting so long? Did they always keep people as long as that--down here?
He put his thumb again--

"Well, what do you want?" The door had opened and a buxom female, arms
akimbo, regarded him. Mr. Heatherbloom repaid her gaze with interest; it
_was_ the cook, then, who acted as door tender of these regions
subterranean. He feared by her expression that he had interrupted her in
the preparation of some esculent delicacy, and with the fear was born a
parenthetical inquiry; he wondered what that delicacy might be? But
forbearing to inquire he stated his business.

"You'll be the thirteenth that's been 'turned down' to-day for that
job!" observed cook blandly. With which cheering assurance she consigned
him to some one else--a maid with a tipped-up nose--and presently he
found himself being "shown up"; that was the expression used.

The room into which he was ushered was a parlor. Absently he seated
himself. The maid tittered. He looked at her--or rather the tipped-up
nose, an attractive bit of anatomy. Saucy, provocative! Mr.
Heatherbloom's head tilted a little; he surveyed the detail with the
look of a connoisseur. She colored, went; but remained in the hall to
peer. There were many articles of virtu lying around--on tables or in
cabinets--and the caller's appearance was against him. He would bear
watching; he had the impudence--Just fancy his sitting there in a chair!
He was leaning back now as if he enjoyed that atmosphere of luxury;
surveying, too, the paintings and the bronzes with interest. But for no
good reason, thought the maid; then gave a start of surprise. The hand
of the suspicious-looking caller had lifted involuntarily to his breast
pocket; a mechanical movement such as a young gentleman might make who
was reaching for a cigarette case. Did he intend--actually intend
to--but the caller's hand fell; he sat forward suddenly on the edge of
his chair and seemed for the first time aware that his attitude partook
of the anomalous; for gathering up his shabby hat from the gorgeous
rug, he abruptly rose.

Just in time to confront, or be confronted by, an austere lady in stiff
satin or brocade and with bristling iron-gray hair! He noticed, however,
that unlike the maid, she had a very prominent nose--that _now_ sniffed!

"Good heavens! What a frightful odor of gasolene. Jane, where are my
salts?"

Jane rushed in; at the same time four or five dogs that had followed in
the lady's wake began to bark as if they, too, were echoing the plaint:
"What a frightful odor! Salts, Jane, salts!" And as they barked in many
keys, but always fortissimo, they ran frantically this way and that as
though chased by somebody, or something (perhaps the odor of gasolene),
or chasing one another in a mad outburst of canine exuberance.

"Sardanapolis! Beauty! Curly! Naughty!" the lady called out.

But in vain. Sardanapolis continued to cut capers; Beauty's conduct was
not beautiful; while as for Naughty (all yellow bows and black curls)
he seemed endeavoring to live up to the fullest realization of his name.

"Dear me! What _shall_ I do?"

"Just let 'em alone, ma'am," ventured Jane, "and they'll soon tire
themselves out."

Fortunately, by this time, the be-ribboned pets showed signs of reaching
that state of ennui.

"Dear me!" said now the lady anxiously. "How wet the poor dears' tongues
are!"

"Nature of the b--poor dears, ma'am!" commented Jane.

The lady looked at her. "_You_ don't like dogs," she said. "You can go."
And then to Mr. Heatherbloom: "What brought you here? Don't answer at
once. Stand farther back."

Mr. Heatherbloom, who seemed to have been rather enjoying this little
impromptu entertainment, straightened with a start; he retired a few
paces, observing in a mild explanatory tone something about spots on his
garments and the necessity for having them removed at a certain little
Greek shop, before doing himself the honor of calling and--

"You're another answer to the advertisement then, I suppose?" the
lady's voice unceremoniously interrupted.

He confessed himself Another Answer, and in that capacity proceeded now
to reply as best he might to a merciless and rapid fire of questions.
She would have made an excellent cross-examiner for the prosecution; Mr.
Heatherbloom did not seem to enjoy the grilling. A number of queries
he answered frankly; others he evaded. He seemed--ominous
circumstance!--especially secretive regarding certain details of his
past. He did not care to say where he was born, or who his parents were.
What had he done? What occupations had he followed?

Well--he seemed to hesitate a good deal--he had once tried washing
dishes; but--dreamily--they had discharged him; the man said something
about there being a debit balance on account of damaged crockery. He had
essayed the role of waiter but had lasted only through the first
courses; down to the entrees, he thought; certainly not much past the
pottage. He believed he bumped into another waiter; a few guests within
range had seemed put out; afterward, he himself was put out. And
then--well, he had somehow drifted, more or less.

"Drifted!" said the lady ominously.

"Oh, yes! Tried his hand at this and that," he added rather blithely. He
once worked for a moving-picture firm; fell from a six-story window for
them. That is, he started to fall; something--a net or a platform--was
supposed to catch him at the fifth, and then a dummy completed the
descent and got smashed on the sidewalk. He was a little doubtful about
their intercepting him at the fifth and that he, instead of the
dummy--But he didn't seem to mind taking the risk--reflectively. They
said he was a great success falling through the air, and they had him,
in consequence, fall from all kinds of places,--through drawbridges into
the water, for example. That's where he contracted a bad cold, and when
he had recovered, another man had been found for the heavier-than-air
role--

"What are you talking about?" The lady's back was stiffer than a poker.

"If ever you go to a moving-picture palace of amusement, Madam, and see
a streak in the air, you might reasonably conclude you are"--he
bowed--"beholding me. I went once; it seemed funny. I hardly recognized
myself in the part. I certainly seemed to be 'going some'," he murmured
seriously. "Is there anything else, Madam, you would care to question me
about?"

"I think," she said significantly, "what I have learned is quite
sufficient. If the occupations you have told me about are so
disreputable--what were those you have kept so carefully concealed? For
example, where were you and what were you doing four--five--six--years
ago? You have already refused to answer. You relate only a few
inconsequential and outre trifles. To cover up--What? What?" she
repeated.

Then she transfixed him with her eye; the dogs transfixed him with their
eyes. Accusingly? Not all of them. Naughty's glance expressed approval;
his tail underwent a friendly agitation.

"Naughty!" said the lady sharply. Naughty gamboled around Horatio.

"How odd!" murmured the mistress, more to herself than the other. "How
very extraordinary!"

"What, Madam?" he ventured.

"That Naughty, who so seldom takes to strangers, should--" she found
herself saying.

"Perhaps it's the scent of the gasolene," he suggested.

"It's _in spite of_ the gasolene," she retorted sharply.

And for some moments ruminated. It was not until afterward Mr.
Heatherbloom learned that her confidence in Naughty's instinct amounted
to a hobby. Only once had she thought him at fault in his likes or
dislikes of people; when he had showed a predilection for the assistant
rector's shapely calves. But after that gentleman's elopement with a
lady of the choir and his desertion of wife and children, Naughty's
erstwhile disrespect for the cloth, which Miss Van Rolsen had grieved
over, became illumined with force and significance. Thereafter she had
never doubted him; he had barked at all twelve of Mr. Heatherbloom's
predecessors--the dozen other answers to the advertisement; but here he
was sedulous for fondlings from Horatio. Extraordinary truly! The lady
hesitated.

"I suppose we shall all be murdered in our beds," she said half to
herself, "but," with sudden decision, "I've concluded to engage you."

"And my duties?" ventured Mr. Heatherbloom. "The advertisement did not
say."

"You are to exercise the darlings every day in the park."

"Ah!" Horatio's exclamation was noncommittal. What he might have added
was interrupted by a light footstep in the hall and the voice of some
one who stopped in passing before the door.

"I am going now, Aunt," said a voice.

Mr. Heatherbloom started; his hand tightened on the back of a chair;
from where he stood he could see but the rim of a wonderful hat. He
gazed at a few waving roses, fitting notes of color as it were, for the
lovely face behind, concealed from him by the curtain.

The elderly lady answered; Mr. Heatherbloom heard a Prince Someone's
name mentioned; then the roses were whisked back; the voice--musical as
silver bells--receded, and the front door closed. Mr. Heatherbloom gazed
around him--at the furnishings in the room--she who stood before him. He
seemed bewildered.

"And now as to your wages," said a voice--not silver bells!--sharply.

"I hardly think I should prove suitable--" he began in somewhat
panic-stricken tones, when--

"Nonsense!" The word, or the energy imparted to it, appeared to crush
for the moment further opposition on his part; his faculties became
concentrated on a sound without, of a big car gathering headway in front
of the door. Mr. Heatherbloom listened; perhaps he would have liked to
retreat then and there from that house; but it was too late! Fate had
precipitated him here. A mad tragic jest! He did not catch the amount
of his proposed stipend that was mentioned; he even forgot for the
moment he was hungry. He could no longer hear the car. It had gone; but,
it would return. Return! And then--? His head whirled at the thought.

CHAPTER III

AN ENCOUNTER

Mr. Heatherbloom, a few days later, sat one morning in Central Park. His
canine charges were tied to the bench and while they chafed at restraint
and tried vainly to get away and chase squirrels, he scrutinized one of
the pages of a newspaper some person had left there. What the young man
read seemed to give him no great pleasure. He put down the paper; then
picked it up again and regarded a snap-shot illustration occupying a
conspicuous position on the society page.

"Prince Boris Strogareff, riding in the park," the picture was labeled.
The newspaper photographer had caught for his sensational sheet an
excellent likeness of a foreign visitor in whom New York was at the time
greatly interested. A picturesque personality--the prince--half
distinguished gentleman, half bold brigand in appearance, was depicted
on a superb bay, and looked every inch a horseman. Mr. Heatherbloom
continued to stare at the likeness; the features, dark, rather
wild-looking, as if a trace of his ancient Tartar ancestry had survived
the cultivating touch of time. Then the young man on the bench once more
turned his attention to the text accompanying the cut.

"Reported engagement of Miss Elizabeth Dalrymple to Prince Boris
Strogareff ... the prince has vast estates in Russia and Russia-Asia ...
his forbears were prominent in the days when Crakow was building and the
Cossacks and the Poles were engaged in constant strife on the steppe ...
Miss Dalrymple, with whom this stalwart romantic personage is said to be
deeply enamored, is niece and heiress of the eccentric Miss Van Rolsen,
the third richest woman in New York, and, probably, in the world ...
Miss Dalrymple is the only surviving daughter of Charles Dalrymple of
San Francisco, who made his fortune with Martin Ferguson of the same
place, at the time--"

The paper fell from Mr. Heatherbloom's hand; for several moments he sat
motionless; then he got up, unloosened his charges and moved on. They
naturally became once more wild with joy, but he heeded not their
exuberances; even Naughty's demonstrations brought no answering touch of
his hand, that now lifted to his breast and took something from his
pocket--an article wrapped in a pink tissue-paper. Mr. Heatherbloom
unfolded the warm-tinted covering with light sedulous fingers and looked
steadily and earnestly at a miniature. But only for a brief interval; by
this time Curly et al. had become an incomprehensible tangle of dog and
leading strings about Mr. Heatherbloom's legs. So much so, indeed, that
in the effort to extricate himself he dropped the tiny picture; with a
sudden passionate exclamation he stooped for it. The anger that
transformed his usually mild visage seemed about to vent itself on his
charges but almost at once subsided.

Carefully brushing the picture on his coat, he replaced it in his
pocket and quietly started to disentangle his charges from himself. This
was at length accomplished; he knew, however, that the unraveling would
have to be done all over again ere long; it constituted an important
part of his duties. The promenade was punctuated by about so many
"mix-ups"; Mr. Heatherbloom accepted them philosophically, or
absent-mindedly. At any rate, while untying knots or disengaging things,
he usually exhibited much patience.

It might have been noticed some time later that Mr. Heatherbloom,
retracing his footsteps to Miss Van Rolsen's, betrayed a rather
vacillating and uncertain manner, as if he were somewhat reluctant to go
into, or to approach too near the old-fashioned stiff and stately house.
For fear of meeting some one, or a dread of some sudden encounter? With
Miss Van Rolsen's niece? So far he had not seen her since that first
day. Perhaps he congratulated himself on his good fortune in this
respect. If so, he reckoned without his host.

It is possible for two people to frequent the same house for quite a
while without meeting when one of them lives on the avenue side and
flits back and forth via the front steps, while the other comes and goes
only by the subterranean route; but, sooner or later, though belonging
to widely different worlds, these two are bound to come face to face,
even in spite of the determination of one of the persons to avert such a
contingency!

Mr. Heatherbloom always peered carefully about before venturing from the
house with his pampered charges; he was no less watchfully alert when he
returned. He could not, however, having only five senses, tell when the
front door might be suddenly opened at an inopportune moment. It was
opened, this very morning, on the third day of his probation at such a
moment. And he had been planning, after reading the newspaper article in
the park, to tender his resignation that very afternoon!

It availed him nothing now to regret indecision, his being partly
coerced by the masterful mistress of the house into remaining as long
as he had remained; or to lament that other sentiment, conspiring to
this end--the desire or determination, not to flee from what he most
feared. Empty bravado! If he could but flee now! But there was no
fleeing, turning, retreating, or evading. The issue had to be met.

Miss Dalrymple, gowned in a filmy material which lent an evanescent
charm to her slender figure, came down the front steps as he was about
to enter the area way below. The girl looked at him and her eyes
suddenly widened; she stopped. Mr. Heatherbloom, quite pale, bowed and
would have gone on, when something in her look, or the first word that
fell from her lips, held him.

"You!" she said, as if she did not at all comprehend.

He repaid her regard with less steady look; he had to say something and
he didn't wish to. Why couldn't people just meet and pass on, the way
dumb creatures do? The gift of speech has its disadvantages--on
occasions; it forces one to insufficient answer or superfluous
explanation. "Yes," he said, "your--Miss Van Rolsen engaged me. I
didn't really want to stay, but it came about. Some things do, you know.
You see," he added, "I didn't know she was your aunt when I answered the
advertisement."

She bent her gaze down upon him as if she hardly heard; beneath the
bright adornment of tints, the lovely face--it was a very proud
face--had become icy cold; the violet eyes were hard as shining crystal.
To Mr. Heatherbloom that slender figure, tensely poised, seemed at once
overwhelmingly near and inexpressibly remote. He started to lean on an
iron picket but changed his mind and stood rather too stiffly, without
support. Before his eyes the flowers in her hat waved and waved; he
tried to keep his eyes on them.

"I had been intending," he observed in tones he endeavored to make
light, "to tell Miss Van Rolsen she must find some one else to take my
place. It would not be very difficult. It is not a position that
requires a trained man."

"Difficult?" She seemed to have difficulty in speaking the word; her
cold eyes suddenly lighted with unutterable scorn. If any one in this
world ever experienced thorough disdain for any one else, her expression
implied it was she that experienced it for him. "Valet for dogs!"

Mr. Heatherbloom flushed. "They are very nice dogs," he murmured.
"Indeed, they are exceptional."

She gave an abrupt, frozen little laugh; then bent down her face
slightly. "And do you wash and curl and perfume them?" she asked, her
small white teeth setting tightly after she spoke.

"Well, I don't perfume them," answered Mr. Heatherbloom. "Miss Van
Rolsen attends to that herself. She knows the particular essences better
than I." A slightly strained smile struggled about his lips. "You see
Beauty has one kind, and Naughty another. At least, I think so. While
Sardanapolis isn't given any at all."

Can violet eyes shine fiercely? Hers certainly seemed to. "How," she
said, examining him as one would study something very remote and
impersonal, "did my aunt happen to employ--you? I know she is very
particular--about recommendations. What ones did you have? Were they
forged ones," suddenly, "or stolen ones?" The red lips like rosebuds had
become straightly drawn now.

"No," answered Mr. Heatherbloom. "I didn't have any. I just came, and--"

"Saw and conquered!" said the girl. But there was no levity in her tone.
She continued to gaze at him and yet through him; at something
beyond--afar--"I don't understand why she should have taken you--"

"Shall I explain?"

"And I don't care why she did!" Not noticing his interruption. "The
principal thing is, why did you want this position? What ulterior motive
lay behind?" She was speaking now almost automatically, as if he were
not present. "For, of course, there was some other motive."

"The truth is," observed Mr. Heatherbloom lightly, but passing an
uncertain hand over his brow, "I had reached that point--I should
qualify by saying I have long been at the point where one is willing to
take any 'honest work of any kind'. I suppose you have heard the phrase
before; it's a common one. But believe me, it was quite by accident I
came here; quite!"

"'Believe you'," said the girl, as one would address an inferior for the
purpose of putting him into the category where he belongs. "'Honest
work'! When have you been particular as to that; whether or not"--with
mocking irony in the pitiless violet eyes--"it was 'honest'?"

Mr. Heatherbloom started; his gaze met hers unwaveringly. "You don't
think, then, that I--"

"Think?" said the girl. "I know."

"Would you mind--explaining?" he asked quietly. He didn't need any
support now, but stood with head well back, a steady gleam in his look.
"What you--know?"

"I know--you are a thief!" She spoke the Words fiercely.

His face twitched. "How do you know?"

"By the kind of evidence I can believe."

"And that?" he said in the same quiet voice.

"The evidence of my own eyes!"

He was still, as if thinking. He looked down; then away.

"Why don't you protest?" she demanded.

"Protest," he repeated.

"Or ask me to explain further--"

"Well, explain further," he said patiently.

"Put your mind back three weeks ago--at about eleven o'clock in the
morning. Where were you? what were you doing? what was happening?"

Mr. Heatherbloom looked very thoughtful.

"At the corner of"--she mentioned the streets--"not far from Riverside
Drive. We passed at that time in the car. Need I say more?"

His head was downbent. "I think I understand." His hand stroked
tentatively his chin.

The silence grew; Beauty barked, but neither seemed to notice.

"Of course you can't deny?" she observed.

"Of course not," he said, without moving.

"You won't defend yourself; plead palliating causes?" ironically.

He picked at the ground with the toe of a shoe. "If I told you, on my
honor, I am not--what you have called me just now, would you believe
me?" he asked gravely.

"On your honor," said the girl with a cruel smile. "Yours? No!"

"Then," he spoke as if to himself, "I don't suppose there's any use in
denying. Your mind is made up."

"My mind!" she answered. "Can I not see; hear? Can _you_ not hear--those
voices? Do they not follow you?"

He seemed striving for an answer but could not find it. Once he looked
into the violet eyes questioningly, deeply, as if seeking there to read
what he should say, but they flashed only the hard rays of diamonds at
him, and he turned his head slowly away.

"I see," she remarked, "you remember; but you do not care."

"I--you reconcile the idea of my being _that_ very easily with--"

"It fits perfectly," said the girl, "with the rest of the picture; what
one has already pieced together; it is just another odd-shaped black bit
that goes in snugly. You appreciate the comparison?"

"I think I do," answered Mr. Heatherbloom. "You are alluding to picture
puzzles. Is there anything more?" He started as if to go.

"One moment--of course, you can't stay here," said the girl.

"I had intended to go at once, as I told you," observed Mr.
Heatherbloom.

"You had? You mean you will?"

"No; I won't go now. That is," he added, "of my own volition."

"You do well to qualify. Would you not prefer to go of your own volition
than to have me inform my aunt who you are--what you are?"

He shook his head. "I won't resign now," he said.

"And so show yourself a fool as well as--" She did not speak the word,
but it trembled on the sweet passionate lips.

He did not answer.

"Suppose," she went on, "I offer you the chance and do not speak, if you
will go--immediately?"

"I can't," he answered.

Her brows bent; her little hand seemed to clench. But he stood without
looking at her, appearing absorbed in a tiny bit of cloud in the sky.

"Very well!" she said, a dangerous glint in her eyes.

He looked quite insignificant at the moment; she was far above him; his
clothes were threadbare, the way thieves' clothes, or pickpockets',
usually are.

"If you expect any mercy from me--" she began.

But she did not finish; a figure, approaching, caught her eye--the
handsome stalwart figure of a man; whose features lighted at sight of
her.

"Ah, Miss Dalrymple!"

Her face changed. "An unexpected pleasure, Prince," she said with
almost an excess of gaiety.

He answered in kind; she came down the steps quickly, offering him her
hand. And as he gallantly raised the small perfumed fingers to his lips,
Mr. Heatherbloom seemed to fade away into the dark subterranean
entrance.

CHAPTER IV

FATE AT THE DOOR

Although Mr. Heatherbloom waited expectantly that day for his dismissal,
it did not come. This surprised him somewhat; then he reflected that
Miss Elizabeth Dalrymple was probably so absorbed in the
prince--remembering her rather effusive greeting of that fortunate
individual--she had forgotten such a small matter as having the dog
valet ejected from the premises. She would remember on the morrow, of
course.

But she didn't! The hours passed, and he was suffered to go about the
even, or uneven, tenor of his way. This he did mechanically; he scrubbed
and combed Beauty beautifully. With a dire sense of fate knocking at the
door, he passed her on to Miss Van Rolsen, to be freshly be-ribboned by
that lady's own particular hand. The thin bony finger he thought would
be pointed accusingly at him, busied itself solely with the knots and
bows of a new ribbon; after which the grim lady dismissed him--from her
presence, not the house--curtly.

Several days went by; still no one accused him; he was still suffered to
remain. Why? He could not understand. At the end of a long--seemingly
interminable week--he put himself deliberately in the way of finding
out. Coming to, or going from the house, he lingered around the area
entrance, purposely to encounter her whom he had heretofore, above all
others, wished to avoid. A feverish desire possessed him to meet the
worst, and then go about his way, no matter where it might lead him. He
was past solicitude in that regard. He did at length manage to meet
her--not as before in the full daylight but toward dusk, as she
returned, this time on foot, to the house.

"Miss Dalrymple, may I speak to you?" he said to the indistinctly seen,
slender figure that started lightly up the front steps.

She did not even stop, although she must have heard him; a moment he
saw her like a shadow; then the front door opened. He heard a crisp
metallic click; the door closed. Slowly with head a little downbent he
walked out, up the way she had come; then around the corner a short
distance to the stables over which he had his room.

It was a nice room, he had at first thought, probably because he liked
horses. They--four or five thoroughbreds--whinnied as he opened the
door. He had started up the dark narrow stairs to his chamber, but
stopped at that sound and groped about from stall to stall passing
around the expected lumps of sugar. After which all seemed well as far
as he and they were concerned.

Only that other problem!--he could not shake it from him. To resign
now?--under fire? How he wished he might! But to remain?--his situation
was intolerable. He went up to his room feeling like a ghost; his mind
was full of dark presences, as if he had lived a thousand times before
and had been surrounded only by hostile influences that now came back
in the still watches of the night to haunt him.

He dreaded going to the house the next day, but he went. Perhaps, he
reflected, she was only allowing him to retain his present position
under a kind of espionage; to trap him and put him beyond the pale of
respectable society. He remembered the cruel lips, the passionate
dislike--contempt--even hatred--in her eyes. Yes; that might be it--the
reason for her temporary silence; the house was full of valuable things;
sooner or later--

"Are you quite satisfied, Madam, with my services?" said Mr.
Heatherbloom that afternoon to Miss Van Rolsen.

"You seem to do well enough," she answered shortly.

He brightened. "Perhaps some one else would do better."

"Perhaps," she returned dryly. "But I'm not going to try."

"But," he said desperately, "I--I don't think they--the dogs, like me
quite so much as they did. Naughty, in particular," he added quickly.
"I--I thought yesterday he would have liked to--growl and nip at me."

"Did he," she asked, studying him with disconcerting keenness, "actually
do that?"

"No. But--"

"Do I understand you wish to give me notice?" she interrupted sharply.

"Not at all." In an alarmed tone. "I couldn't--I mean I wouldn't do
that. Only I thought you might have felt dissatisfied--people usually do
with me," he added impressively. "So if you would like to give me--"

She made a gesture. "That will do. I am very busy this morning. The
begging list, though smaller than usual--only three hundred and
seventy-six letters--has to be attended to."

Thus the matter of Mr. Heatherbloom's staying or going continued, much
to that person's discomfiture, _in statu quo_. It is true he found,
later, a compromising course; a way out of the difficulty--as he
thought, little knowing the extraordinary new web he was weaving!--but
before that time came, several things happened. In the first place he
discovered that Miss Dalrymple was not entirely pleased at the
publication of the story of her engagement to the prince; her
position--her family's and that of Miss Van Rolsen, was such that
newspaper advertising or notoriety could not but be distasteful.

"I hope people won't think I keep a social secretary," Mr. Heatherbloom
heard her say.

Yes, heard her. He was in the dogs' "boudoir"; the conservatory
adjoined. He could not help being where he was; he belonged there at the
time. Nor could he help hearing; he didn't try to listen; he certainly
didn't wish to, though she had a very sweet voice--that soothed one to a
species of lotus dream--forgetfulness of soap-suds, or the odor of
canine disinfectant permeating the white foam--

"Why should they think you have a social secretary?" the voice of a
man--the prince--inquired.

He had deep fine tones; truly Russian tones, with a subtle vibration in
them.

"Because when such things are published about people their secretaries
usually put them in," returned the girl.

He was silent a moment; Mr. Heatherbloom thought he heard the breaking
of the stem of a flower.

"You were very much irritated--angry?" observed the prince at length,
quietly.

"Weren't you?" she asked.

"I? No. It is a bourgeois confession, perhaps."

Mr. Heatherbloom sat up straighter; the water dripped from his fingers.

"I was pleased," went on the sonorous low voice. "I wished--it were so!"

There was a sudden movement in the conservatory; a rustling of leaves,
or of a gown; then--Mr. Heatherbloom relaxed in surprise--a peal of
merry laughter filled the air.

"How apropos! How well you said that!"

"Miss Dalrymple!" There was a slightly rising inflection in the man's
tones. "You doubt my sincerity?"

"The sincerity of a Russian prince? No, indeed!" she returned gaily.

"I am in earnest," he said simply.

"Don't be!" Mr. Heatherbloom could, in fancy, see the flash of a white
hand amid red flowers; eyes dancing like violets in the wind. He could
perceive, also, as plainly as if he were in that other room, the deep
ardent eyes of the prince downbent upon the blither ones, the commanding
figure of the man near that other slender, almost illusive presence. A
flower to be grasped only by a bold wooer, like the prince!

"Don't be," she repeated. "You are so much more charming when you are
not. I think I heard that line in a play once. One of the Robertson
kind; it was given by a stock company in San Francisco. That's where I
came from, you know. Have you ever been there?"

"No," said the prince slowly.

Dark eyes trying to beat down the merriment in the blue ones! Mr.
Heatherbloom could, in imagination, "fill in" all the stage details. If
it only were "stage" dialogue; "stage" talk; not "playing with love", in
earnest!

"Playing with love!" He had read a book of that name once; somewhere.
In Italy?--yes. It sounded like an Italian title. Something very
disagreeable happened to the heroine. A woman, or a girl, can not
lightly "play with love" with a Sicilian. But, of course, the prince
wasn't a Sicilian.

"No," he was saying now with admirable poise, in answer to her question,
"I haven't visited your wonderful Golden Gate, but I hope to go there
some day--with you!" he added. His words were simple; the accent alone
made them sound formidable; it seemed to convey an impregnable purpose,
one not to be shaken or disturbed.

Mr. Heatherbloom felt vaguely disturbed; his heart pounded oddly. He
half started to get up, then sank back. He waited for another peal of
laughter; it didn't come. Why?

"Of course I should have no objection to your being one of a train
party," said Miss Dalrymple at length.

"That isn't just what I mean," returned the prince in his courtliest
tones. But it wasn't hard to picture him now with a glitter in his
gaze,--immovable, sure of himself.

There was a rather long pause; broken once more by Miss Dalrymple:
"Shall we not return to the music room?"

That interval? What had it meant? Mute acquiescence on her part, a
down-turning of the imperious lashes before the steadfastness of the
other's look?--tacit assent? The casting off of barriers, the opening of
the gates of the divine inner citadel? Mr. Heatherbloom was on his feet
now. He took a step toward the door, but paused. Of course! Something
clammy had fallen from his hand; lay damp and dripping on the rag. He
stared at it--a bar of soap.

What had he been about to do--he!--to step in there--into the
conservatory, with his bar of soap?--grotesque anomaly! His face wore a
strange expression; he was laughing inwardly. Oh, how he was laughing at
himself! Fortunately he had a saving sense of humor.

What had next been said in the conservatory? What was now being said
there? He heard words but they had no meaning for him. "I will send you
the second volume of _The Fire and Sword_ trilogy," went on the prince.
"One of my ancestors figures in it. The hero--who is not exactly a hero,
perhaps, in the heroine's mind, for a time--does what he must do; he has
what he must have. He claims what nature made for him; he knows no other
law than that of his imperishable inner self. I, too, must rise to those
heights my eyes are set on. It must be; it is written. We are fatalists,
we Russians near the Tartar line! And you and I"--fervently--"were
predestined for each other."

Mr. Heatherbloom had but dimly heard the prince's words and failed to
grasp them; he didn't want to; his head was humming. Her light answer
sounded as if she might be very happy. Yes; naturally. She was made to
be happy, to dance about like sunshine. He liked to think of the
picture. The prince, too, was necessary to complete it; necessary,
reaffirmed Mr. Heatherbloom to himself, pulling with damp fingers at
the inconsequential lock of hair over his brow. Of course, if the prince
could be eliminated from that mental picture of her felicity?--but he
was a part of the composition; big, barbaric, romantic looking! In fact,
it wouldn't have been an adequate composition at all without him; no,
indeed!

And something rose in Mr. Heatherbloom's throat; one of his eyes--or was
it both of them?--seemed a little misty. That confounded soap! It was
strong; a bit of it in the corner of the eyes made one blink.

The two in the conservatory said something more; but the young man in
the "boudoir" didn't catch it at all well. By some intense mental
process, or the sound of the scrubber on the edge of the tub, he found
he could shut a definite cognizance of words almost entirely from his
sense of hearing. The prince's voice seemed slightly louder; that, in a
general way, was patent; no doubt the occasion warranted more fervor on
his part. Mr. Heatherbloom tried to imagine what she would look like
in--so to say, a very complaisant mood; not with flaming glance full of
aversion and scorn!

Violet eyes replete only with love lights! Mr. Heatherbloom bent lower
over the tub; his four-footed charge Beauty, contentedly immersed to the
neck in nice comfortably warm water, licked him. He did not feel the
touch; the fragrance of orchids seemed to come to him above that other
more healthful, less agreeable odor of special cleansing preparation.

Her accents were heard once more. Those final words sounded like a soft
command. Naturally! She could command the prince--now! Mr. Heatherbloom
heard a door close--a replica of the harsh click he had listened to when
she had shut the front door so unceremoniously on him a short time
before. Then he heard nothing more. He gazed around him as he sat with
his hands tightly closed. Had it been only a dream? Naughty whined;
Sardanapolis edged toward him and mechanically he began to brush him
down until he shone as sleek and shining as his Assyrian namesake.

CHAPTER V

A CONTRETEMPS

More days passed and Mr. Heatherbloom continued to linger in his last
position. It promised to be a record-making situation from the
standpoint of longevity; he had never "lasted" at any one task so long
before. Miss Van Rolsen, to his consternation, seemed to unbend somewhat
before him, as if she were beginning--actually!--to be more prepossessed
in his favor. These evidences that he was rising in the stern lady's
good graces filled Mr. Heatherbloom with new dismay; destiny certainly
seemed to be making a mock of him.

A week went by; two weeks--three, and still twice a day he continued to
march to and from the park with his charges. The faces of all the
nurse-maids and others who frequented the big parallelogram of green
became familiar to him; he learned to know by sight the people who rode
in the park and had a distant acquaintance with the squirrels.

He became, for the first time, aware one day, from the perusal of a
certain newspaper he always purchased now, that the prince had returned
to Russia. Although Miss Dalrymple refused to be interviewed, or to
confirm or deny any statement, it was generally understood (convenient
phrase!) that the wedding would take place in the fall at the old Van
Rolsen home. The prince had left America in his yacht--the _Nevski_--for
St. Petersburg, announced the society editor. After a special interview
with the czar and a few necessary business arrangements, the nobleman
would return at once for his bride. And, perhaps, he--Mr.
Heatherbloom--would still be at his post of duty at the Van Rolsen
house!

Since the day the prince had been with Miss Dalrymple in the
conservatory, Mr. Heatherbloom had not seen, or rather heard, that
gentleman at the house. But then he--Mr. Heatherbloom--belonged in the
rear, and, no doubt, the prince had continued to be a daily, or twice,
or three-times-a-day visitor to Miss Van Rolsen's elegant, if somewhat
stiff, reception rooms. Now, however, he would come no more until he
came finally to "take with him the bride--"

The thought was in Horatio's mind when for a third time he encountered
her, face to face, on a landing, near a stair, or somewhere in the
house, he couldn't afterward just exactly recall where, only that she
looked through him, without recognition, speech or movement of an
eyelash, as if he had been a thing of thin air! But a thing that became
suddenly imbued with real life; inspired with purpose! She had permitted
him to remain in the house, knowing his professed helplessness in the
matter--she _must_ have divined that--playing with him as a tigress with
a victim (yes; a tigress! Mr. Heatherbloom wildly, on the spur of the
moment, compared her in his mind to that fierce beautiful creature). He
would force her to tell him to go; she would certainly not suffer him
to remain there another day if he told her--

"Miss Dalrymple, there is something I ought to say. I could not help
overhearing you and the prince, one day, several weeks ago, in the
conservatory."

After he said it, he asked himself what excuse he had for saying it. If
he had stopped to analyze the impulse, he would have seen how absurd,
unreasonable and uncalled for his words were. But he had no time to
analyze; like a diver who plunges suddenly, on some mad impulse, into a
whirlpool, he had cast himself into the vortex.

She looked at him and there was nothing _in nubibus_ to her about his
presence now. The violet eyes saw a substance--such as it was;
recognized a reality--of its kind! Before the clouds gathering in their
depths, Mr. Heatherbloom felt inclined to excuse himself and go on; but
instead, he waited. There was even a furtive smile on his lips that
belied a quick throbbing in his breast; he thrust one hand as debonairly
as possible into his trousers pocket. His attitude might have been
interpreted to express indifference, recklessness, or one or more of the
synonymous feelings. She thought so badly of him already that she
couldn't think much worse, and--

"So,"--had she been paler than her wont, or had excess of passion sent
the color from her face?--"you are a spy as _well!_"

His head shot back a little at the accent on the "well", but he thrust
his hand yet deeper into the pocket and strove not to lose that assumed
expression of ease.

"I--a spy? I did not intend to--you--" He paused; if he wished to set
himself right in her eyes, why should he have spoken at all? Mr.
Heatherbloom saw he had not quite argued out this matter as he should
have done; his bearing became less assured.

"Is there"--her voice low and tense--"anything despicable, mean, paltry
enough that you are not?"

Mr. Heatherbloom moistened his lips; he strove to think of a reply,
sufficiently comprehensive to cover all the features of the case, but
not finding one at once apologetic and yet not so, remained silent. He
made, however, a little gesture with his hand--the one that wasn't in
the pocket. That seemed to imply something; he didn't quite know what.

She came slightly closer and his heart began to pound harder. A breath
of perfume seemed to ascend between them; the arrows in her eyes darted
into his. "How much--_what_ did you hear?" she demanded.

"I--am really not sure--" Was it the orchids which perfumed the air? He
had always heard they were odorless. The question intruded; his brain
seemed capable of a dual capacity, or of a general incapacity of
simultaneous considerations. He might possibly have stepped back a
little now but there was a wall, the broad blank wall behind him. He
wished he were that void she had first seemed to see--or not to see--in
him. "I didn't hear very much--the first part, I imagine--"

"The first part?" Roses of anger burned on her cheek. "And
afterward?--spy!" Her little hands were tight against her side.

He hesitated; her foot moved; all that was passionate, vibrant in her
nature seemed concentrated on him.

"I don't think I caught much; but I heard him say something about fate,
or destiny, and men coming into their own--that old Greek kind of talk,
don't you know--" He spoke lightly. Why not? There was no need of being
melodramatic. What had to be must be. He couldn't alter her, or what she
would think. "Then--then I was too busy to catch more--that is, if I had
wanted to--which I didn't!" He was forced to add the last; it burst from
his lips with sudden passion; then they curved a little as if to ask
excuse for a superfluity.

She continued to look at him, and he looked at her now, squarely; a
strange calm descended upon him.

"And that," he said, "is all I heard, or knew, until this morning, when
I saw in the paper," dreamily, "he was coming back in the fall for--"

The color concentrated with sudden swift brightness in her cheeks. "You
saw that--any one--every one saw--Oh--"

She started to speak further, then bit her lip, while the lace stirred
beneath the white throat. Mr. Heatherbloom had not followed what she
said, was cognizant only of her anger. Her eyes were fastened on
something beyond him, but returned soon, very soon.

"Oh," she said, "I might have known--if I let you stay, through pity,
you would--"

"Pity!" said Mr. Heatherbloom.

"Because I did not want to turn you out into the street--"

She spoke the words fiercely. Mr. Heatherbloom seemed now quite
impervious to stab or thrust.

"I permitted you to remain for"--she stopped--"remembering what you once
were; who your people were! What"--flinging the words at him--"you might
have been. Instead--of what you are!"

Mr. Heatherbloom gazed now without wincing; an unnatural absence of
feeling seemed to have passed over his features, making them almost
mask-like. It was as if he stood in some new pellucid atmosphere of his
own.

"Of course," he said, as half speaking to himself, "I must have earned
my salary, or Miss Van Rolsen wouldn't have retained me. So I am not a
recipient of charity. Therefore,"--did the word suggest far-away
school-boy lessons on syllogisms and sophistries--"I have no right to
feel offended in that you let me remain, you say, 'through pity', when
as a matter of fact it was impossible for me to tender my resignation,
in view of--" He finished the rest of a rather involved logical
conclusion to himself, taking his hand out of his pocket now and passing
it lightly, in a somewhat dragging fashion, over his eyes. Then he gazed
momentarily beyond, as if he saw something appertaining to the "auld
lang syne", but recalled himself with a start to the beautiful face, the
threads of gold, the violet eyes.

"You will see to it now, of course"--his manner became brisk, almost
businesslike--"that I, as a factor, am eliminated here? That, I may
conclude, is your intention?"

"Perhaps," said the girl, a sibyl for intentness now, "you would prefer
to go? To be asked to! You would find the streets"--with swift
discerning contempt--"more profitable for your purpose than here, where
you are known."

"Perhaps," assented Mr. Heatherbloom. He spoke quite airily; then
suddenly stiffened.

At his words, the sight of him as he uttered them, she came abruptly yet
nearer; her breath swept and seemed to scorch his cheek.

"I should think," she said, "you would be ashamed to live!"

"Ashamed?" he began; then stopped. There was no need of speaking further
for she had gone.

CHAPTER VI

PLOT AND COUNTER-PLOT

Mr. Heatherbloom drifted; not "looking for a way", one was forced upon
him. It came to him unexpectedly; chance served him. He would have
thrust it from him but could not. During his more or less eccentric
peregrinations in Central Park he had formed visual acquaintances with
sundry folk; pictures of some of them were very dimly impressed on his
consciousness, others--and the major part--on his subconsciousness.

Flat faces, big faces, red faces, pale faces! One countenance in the
last class made itself a trifle more insistent than the others. Its
possessor had watched with interest his progress, interrupted with
entanglements, and had listened to the music of his march, the canine
fantasia, staccato, affettuoso! Mr. Heatherbloom's halting footsteps
in the park generally led him to the heights; it wasn't a very high
point, but it was the highest he could find, and he could look off on
something--a lake, or reservoir of water, he didn't know just which, and
a jagged sky-line.

The person that exhibited casual curiosity in his movements and his
coming thither was a woman. She seemed slight and sinuous, sitting there
against the stone parapet, and deep dark eyes accentuated the pallor of
her face. He did not think it strange she should always be at this spot
when he came; in fact, it was quite a while before he noticed the almost
daily coincidence of their mutual presence at the same place, at about
the same time. After her first half-sly, half-sedulous regard of him,
she would look away; her face then wore a soft and melancholy
expression; she appeared very sad.

It took quite a while for this fact to be communicated to Mr.
Heatherbloom. Though she shifted her figure often, as if to call
attention to the pale profile of her face against a leaden sky, his
thoughts remained introspective. Only the sky-line seemed to interest
him. But one day something white came dancing in the breeze to his feet.
Absorbed in deep neutral tones afar, he did not see it; his four-footed
charges, however, were quick to perceive the object.

"Oh!" said the lady.

Mr. Heatherbloom looked. "Is--is it yours?" he asked.

"It--was," she remarked with a slight accent on the last word.

He got up; there seemed little use endeavoring to rescue the
handkerchief now.

"I'm afraid I've been rather slow," he remarked. "Quite stupid, I'm
sure."

She may have had her own opinion but maintained a discreet silence. Mr.
Heatherbloom stooped and gathered in the remnants. "You will permit me,"
he observed, "to replace it, of course."

"But it was not your fault."

"It was that of my charges, then."

"No; the wind. Let's blame it on the wind." She laughed, her dark eyes
full on his, though Mr. Heatherbloom seemed hardly to see them.

After that when they met on this little elevation, she bowed to him and
sometimes ventured a remark or two. He did not seem over-anxious to talk
but he met her troubled face with calm and unvarying, though somewhat
absent-minded courtesy. He replied to her questions perfunctorily, told
her whom he served, betraying, however, in turn, no inquisitiveness
concerning her. For him she was just some one who came and went, and
incidentally interfered with his study of the sky-line.

By degrees she confided in him; as one so alone she was glad of almost
any one to confide in. She wanted, indeed, needed badly, a situation as
lady's maid or second maid. She had tried and tried for a position;
unfortunately her recommendations were mostly foreign--from Milan,
Moscow, Paris. People either scrutinized them suspiciously, or _mon
Dieu_! couldn't read them. It was hard on her; she had had such a time!
She, a Viennese, with all her experience in France, Italy, Russia,
found herself at her wits' end in this golden America. Wasn't it odd,
_tres drole?_ She had laughed and laughed when she hadn't cried about
it.

She had even tried singing in a little music-hall, a horribly common
place, but her voice had failed her. Perhaps there was a vacancy at Miss
Van--what was her name? There _was_ a place vacant; the maid with the
saucy nose, Mr. Heatherbloom indifferently vouchsafed, had just left to
marry out of service.

"How fortunate!" the fair questioner cried; then sighed. Miss Van
Rolsen, being a maiden lady, would probably be most particular about
recommendations; that they should be of the home-made, intelligible
brand, from people you could call up by telephone and interrogate. Had
she been very particular in his case? Mr. Heatherbloom said "no"--not
joyfully, and explained. Though she drew words from him, he talked to
the sky-line. She listened; seemed thinking deeply.

"You are not pleased to be there?" Keenly.

"I?--Oh, of course!" Quickly.

She did not appear to note his changed manner. "This Miss
Van Rolsen,--isn't she the one whose niece--Miss Elizabeth
Dalrymple--recently refused the hand and heart of a Russian prince?" she
said musingly.

"Refused?" he cried suddenly. "You mean--" He stopped; the words had
been surprised from him.

"Accepted?" She looked at him closer. "Of course; I remember now seeing
it in the paper; I was thinking of some one else. One of the other
lords, dukes, or noblemen the town is so full of just now."

He got up rather suddenly, bowed and went. With narrowing eyes she
watched him walk away, but when he had gone all melancholy disappeared
from her face; she stretched herself and laughed. "_Voila!_ Sonia
Turgeinov, comedienne!"

Mr. Heatherbloom did not repair to the point of elevation the next day,
nor the day after; but she met him the third day near the Seventy-second
Street entrance. More than that, she insinuated herself at his side; at
first rather to his discomfort. Later he forgot the constraint her
presence occasioned him, when something she said caused him to look upon
her with new favor. Beauty had momentarily escaped his vigilance and
enjoyed a mad romp after a squirrel before she was captured.

What, his companion laughingly suggested, would have happened if Beauty
had really escaped, and he, Mr. Heatherbloom, had been forced to return
to the house without her? What? Mr. Heatherbloom started. He might lose
his position, _n'est-cepas?_ He did not answer.

The idea was born; why _not_ lose Beauty? No, better still, Naughty; the
prime favorite, Naughty. He looked into Naughty's eyes, and they seemed
full of liquid reproach. Naughty had been his friend--supposititiously,
and to abandon him now to the world, a cold place devoid of French lamb
chops? A hard place for homeless dogs and men, alike! About to waive the
temptation, Mr. Heatherbloom paused; the idea was capable of
modification or expansion. Most ideas are.

But he shortly afterward dismissed the entire matter from his mind; it
would, at best, be but a compromise, an evasion of the pact he had made
with himself. It was not to be thought of. At this moment his companion
swayed and Mr. Heatherbloom had just time to put out his arm; then
helped her to a bench.

She partly recovered; it was nothing, she remarked bravely. One gets
sometimes a little faint when--it was the old, old story of privation
and want that now fell with seeming reluctance from her lips. Mr.
Heatherbloom had become all attention. More than that he seemed greatly
distressed. A woman actually in need, starving--no use mincing
words!--in Central Park, the playground of the most opulent metropolis
of the world. It was monstrous; he tendered her his purse, with several
weeks' pay in it. Her reply had a spirited ring; he felt abashed and
returned the money to his pocket. She sat back with eyes half-closed; he
saw now that her face looked drawn and paler than usual.

He, thought and thought; had he not himself found out how difficult it
was to get a position, to procure employment without friends and
helpers? He, a man, had walked in search of it, day after day and felt
the griping pangs of hunger; had wished for night, and, later, wished
for the morn, only to find both equally barren.

Suddenly he spoke--slowly, like a man stating a proposition he has
argued carefully in his own mind. She listened, approved, while hope
already transfigured her face. She would have thanked him profusely but
he did not remain to hear her. In fact, he seemed hardly to see her now;
his features had become once more reserved and introspective.

He reappeared at the Van Rolsen house that day without Naughty. Miss Van
Rolsen, when she heard the news, burst into tears; then became furious.
She was sure he had sold Naughty, winner of three blue ribbons, and "out
of the contest" no end of times because superior to all competition!

A broken leash! Fiddlesticks! She penned advertisements wildly and
summoned her niece. That young lady responded to protestations and
questions with a slightly indifferent expression on her proud languid
features. What did she think of it? She didn't really know; her manner
said she really didn't care.

Mr. Heatherbloom, standing with the light of the window falling
pensively upon him, she didn't seem to see at all; he had once more
become a nullity. He rather preferred that role, however; perhaps he
felt it was easier to impersonate annihilation, in the inception, than
to have it, or a wish for it, thrust later too strongly upon him.

"I adhere to my opinion that he sold Naughty. I should never have
employed this man," asserted Miss Van Rolsen, fastening her fiery eyes
on Mr. Heatherbloom. "Why don't you speak, my dear, and give me your
opinion?" To her niece.

"I haven't any, Aunt."

"You are discerning; you have judgment." Miss Van Rolsen spoke almost
hysterically. "Remember he"--pointing a finger--"came without our
knowing anything about him."

Miss Dalrymple did not stir; a bunch of bizarre-looking orchids on her
gown moved to her even rhythmical breathing. "What was he? Who was he?
Maybe, nothing more than--" She paused for want of breath, not of words,
to characterize her opinion of Mr. Heatherbloom.

He readjusted his posture. It was very bright outdoors; people went by
briskly, full of life and importance; children whirled along on roller
skates.

"When I asked your opinion, my dear, as to the wisdom of having employed
this person in the first place, under the circumstances, why did you
keep silent?" Was Miss Van Rolsen still talking, or rambling on to the
impervious beautiful girl? "You should have called me foolish,
eccentric; yes, that's what I was, to have taken him in as I did."

Miss Dalrymple raised her brows and moved to a piano to adjust the
flowers in a vase; she smiled at them with soft enigmatic lips.

"If I may venture an opinion, Madam," observed Mr. Heatherbloom in a
far-away voice, "I should say Naughty will surely return, or be
returned."

"You venture an opinion!" said Miss Van Rolsen. "You!"

Miss Dalrymple breathed the fragrance of the flowers; she apparently
liked it.

"You are discharged!" said Miss Van Rolsen violently to Mr.
Heatherbloom. "I give you the two-weeks' notice agreed upon."

"I'll waive the notice," suggested the young man at the window quickly.

"You'll do nothing of the sort." Sharply. "It'll take me that time to
find another incompetent keeper for them. And, meanwhile, you may be
sure," grimly, "you will be very well watched."

"Under the circumstances, I should prefer--since you _have_ discharged
me--to leave at once."

"Your preferences are a matter of utter indifference. You were employed
with a definite understanding in this regard."

Mr. Heatherbloom gazed rather wildly out of the window; two weeks.--that
much longer! He was about to say he would not be well watched; he would
take himself off--that she couldn't keep him; but paused. A contract was
a contract, though orally made; she could hold him yet a little. But why
did she wish to? He had not calculated upon this; he tried to think but
could not. He looked from the elder to the younger woman. The latter did
not look at him.

Miss Dalrymple had seated herself at the piano; her fingers--light as
spirit touches--now swept the keys; a Debussey fantasy, almost as
pianissimo as one could play it, vibrated around them. Outside the whir!
whir! of the skates went on. A little girl tumbled. Mr. Heatherbloom
regarded her; ribbons awry; fat legs in the air. The music continued.

"You may go," said a severe voice.

He aroused himself to belated action, but at the door he looked back.
"I'm sure it will be all right," he repeated to Miss Van Rolsen. "On my
word"--more impetuously.

At the piano some one laughed, and Mr. Heatherbloom went.

"Why on earth, Aunt, did you want to keep him two weeks longer?" he
heard the girl's now passionate tones ask as he walked away.

"For a number of reasons, my dear," came the response. "One, because he
wanted to leave me in the lurch. Another--it will be easier to keep an
eye on him until Naughty is returned, or"--her voice had the vindictive
ring of a Roman matron's--"this person's culpability is proven. Naughty
is a valuable dog and--"

Mr. Heatherbloom's footsteps hastened; he had caught quite enough, but
as he disappeared to the rear, the dream chords on the piano, now
louder, continued to follow him.

CHAPTER VII

DEVELOPMENTS

That night, as if his rest were not already sufficiently disturbed, a
disconcerting possibility occurred abruptly to Mr. Heatherbloom. It was
born in the darkness of the hour; he could not dispel it. What if the
person in whom he had confided in the park were not all she seemed? He
hated the insinuating suggestion but it insisted on creeping into his
brain. He had once, not so long ago, in his search for cheap lodgings,
stumbled upon a roomful of alleged cripples and maimed disreputables who
made mendicancy a profession; their jibes and jests on the credulity of
the public yet rang in his ears. What if she--his casual acquaintance of
the day before--belonged to that yet greater class of dissemblers who
ply their arts and simulations with more individualism and intelligence?

Mr. Heatherbloom sat up in bed. Naughty might be worth five or even ten
thousand dollars. He remembered having read at some previous time about
a certain canine whose proud mistress and owner was alleged to have
refused twenty thousand for him. The perspiration broke out on Mr.
Heatherbloom's face. Was Naughty of this category? He looked very
"classy," as if there couldn't be another beast quite like him in the
world. What had been the twenty-thousand-dollar mistress' name; not
Van--impossible!

But the more he told himself "impossible", the more positive grew a
certain perverse inner asseveration that it was quite possible. And what
if the person in the park had known it? He reviewed the circumstances of
their different meetings; details that had not impressed themselves upon
him at the time--that had almost escaped his notice, now stood out
clearer--too clear, in his mind. He remembered how she had brightened
astonishingly after the brief fainting spell when he had made his
ill-advised proposal. It had been as elixir to her. He recalled how she
had met him every day. Had it been mere chance? Or--disconcerting
suspicion!--had she deliberately planned--

For Mr. Heatherbloom there was no sleep that night. At the first signs
of dawn he was up and out, directing his steps toward the park, as a
criminal returns to the haunts of his crime. No faces of any kind now
greeted him there; only trees confronted him, gaunt, ghostlike in the
early morning mists. Even the squirrels were yet abed in their miniature
Swiss chalets in the air. The sun rose at last, red and threatening. He
now met a policeman who looked at him questioningly. Mr. Heatherbloom
greeted him with a blitheness at variance with his mood. Officialdom
only growled and gazed after the young man as if to say: "We'll gather
you in, yet."

It was past nine o'clock before Mr. Heatherbloom ventured to approach
the house; as he did so, the front door closed; some one had been
admitted. He himself went in through the area way; from above came
joyous barks, a woman's voice; pandemonium. Mr. Heatherbloom listened.
Later he learned what had happened; a young woman had brought back
Naughty; a very honest young woman who refused all reward.

"Sure," said the cook, who had the story from the butler, "and she spoke
loike a quane. 'I can take nothing for returning what doesn't belong to
me, ma'am. I am but doing my jooty. But if ye plaze, would ye be lookin'
over these recommends av mine--they're from furriners--and if yez be
havin' ony friends who be wanting a maid and yez might be so good as to
recommind me, I'd be thankin' of yez, for it's wurrk I wants.' Think av
that now. Only wurrk! Who says there arn't honest servin' gurrls,
nowadays? The mistress was that pleased with her morals an' her
manners--so loidy-loike!--she gave her the job that shlip av a Jane had;
wid an advance av salary on the sphot."

"You mean Miss Van Rolsen has actually engaged her?" Mr. Heatherbloom,
face abeam, repeated.

"Phawt have I been saying just now?" Scornfully. "Sure, an' is it ears
you have on your head?"

Mr. Heatherbloom, a weight lifted from his shoulders, departed from the
kitchen. He had wronged her--this poor girl, or young woman, who, in her
dire distress, had appealed to him. How he despised now the uncharitable
dark thoughts of the night! How he could congratulate himself he had
obeyed impulse, and not stopped to reason too closely, or to question
too suspiciously, when he had decided to act the day before!

All is well that ends well. All he had to do now was to complete as
unostentatiously as possible his term of service--But perhaps he would
be released at once?

No; not at once! Those anxious to supersede him began to dribble in, it
is true; but they faded away, one by one, after interviews with Miss Van
Rolsen, and returned no more. They were a mournful lot, these would-be,
ten-dollar-a-week custodians; Mr. Heatherbloom wondered if his own
physiognomy in a general way would merge nicely in a composite
photograph of them?

His duties he performed now as quietly as he could. Two weeks more, ten
days, nine, eight! Then? Ah, then!

He did not see Miss Van Rolsen again nor Miss Dalrymple. He encountered
the fair unknown, though, his acquaintance of the park, occasionally, as
she in demure cap and white ruffled apron glided softly her allotted
way. Sometimes he nodded to her in distant fashion, sometimes she got by
before he actually realized he had passed her. She seemed to move so
quickly and with such little ado; or, it may be, he was not very
observant. He didn't feel very keen on mere minor details these days; he
experienced principally the sensation of one who was now merely "marking
time", as it were--figuratively performing a variety of goose-step, the
way the German soldiers do.

But one day she--Marie, they called her--stopped him.

"I understand from one of the servants that it cost you your position
to--do what you did. You know what I mean--"

He looked alarmed. "Don't worry about that."

"But shouldn't I?" Steady dark eyes upon him.

"On the contrary!" Vigorously.

"I don't understand--unless.--"

"The salary--it is nothing here"--Mr. Heatherbloom gestured airily. "I
should do much better--one of my ability, you understand!--elsewhere."

"Could you?" She regarded him doubtfully. "But, perhaps, they--It was
not very pleasant for you here, anyway. Miss Van Rolsen--her niece, Miss
Dalrymple--does not like you." He started. "It was easy to see that;
when I mentioned regretfully that the good fortune that brought me where
there is plenty; to eat should have been the cause of your being in
disfavor, she stopped me short." Mr. Heatherbloom studied the distance.
"'The person you speak of intended leaving anyhow,' she said, and her
voice was--_mon Dieu_!--ice."

The listener swallowed. "Quite so," he said jauntily. "Miss Dalrymple
is absolutely correct."

She regarded him an instant with sudden, very mature gaze. "I can't
quite make you out."

"No one ever can. Don't try. It isn't worth while. Which reminds me"--he
rattled on--"I did you an injury; an injustice--"

"Ah?" she said quickly.

"In my mind! You will excuse me, but do you know that night after I had
consigned him to your care in the park, I afterward felt quite
anxious--"

"For what?" She came closer.

"Wondering if you--Ha! ha!" Mr. Heatherbloom stopped; in his confusion,
his endeavor to turn the conversation from himself and Miss Dalrymple,
he seemed to be getting into deep waters.

"You wondered what?" In a low tone.

Since he now felt obliged to speak, he did, coolly enough. "If you had
some ulterior motive!" he said with a quiet smile.

She it was who now started back, and her face paled slightly.
"Why?--what ulterior motive? What do you mean?"

He told her in plain words. She breathed more evenly; then smiled
sweetly. She had a strange face sometimes. "Thank you," she said. "You
are very frank, _mon ami_. I like you none the less for it. Though you
did so injure me--in your thoughts!" Her eyes had an enigmatic light.
"Well, I must go now to Miss Dalrymple. She is beginning to be so fond
of me." She drawled the last words as if she liked to linger on them.
"You see I, too, have a little Russian blood in me." Mr. Heatherbloom
looked down. "And I think she loves to hear me tell of that wonderful
country--the white nights of St. Petersburg--the splendid steppes--the
grandeur of our Venice of the north. Of course, she is immensely
interested in Russia now." Significantly. "Its ostentation, its
splendor, its barbaric picturesqueness! But tell me, what is her prince
like? He is very handsome, naturally! Or she would not so dote on him!"

Mr. Heatherbloom's features had hardened; he did not answer directly.
"She likes to talk about Russia?" he said, half to himself.

Marie shrugged. "Is it not to be her country some day?"

"No, it isn't!" The words seemed forced from his lips; he spoke almost
fiercely. "She may live there with him, but it will never be her
country. This is her country. She is its product; an American to her
finger-tips. And all the grand dukes and princes of the Winter Palace
can't change her. She belongs to old California; she grew up among the
orange trees and the flowers, and her heart will ever yearn for them in
your frozen land of tyranny!"

"Oh! oh! oh!" said Mademoiselle Marie. "How eloquent monsieur can be!
Quite an orator! One would say he, too, has known this land of orange
trees and flowers!"

"I?" Mr. Heatherbloom bit his lip.

But she only shook a finger. "Oh! oh!" Altogether like a different
person from his casual acquaintance of the park! He gazed at her
closer; how quickly the marks of trouble, anxiety, had faded from her
face; as if they had never existed.

"What do you mean?" he asked, looking into eyes now full of a new and
peculiar understanding.

"Nothing," she said and vanished.

He gazed where she had been; he could not account for a sudden strange
emotion, as if some one had trailed a shadow over him. A premonition of
something going to happen; that could not be foreseen, or averted!
Something worse than anything that had gone before! What nonsense! He
pressed his lips tightly and went about his duties like an automaton.

Eight days--seven days--six days more!--only six--

CHAPTER VIII

THE UNEXPECTED

The blow fell, a thunderbolt from the clear sky. It dazed certain people
at first; it was difficult to realize what had happened, or if anything
_had_ really happened. For might not what seemed a deep and dire mystery
turn out to be nothing so very mysterious after all? A message would
soon come; everything would then be "cleared up" and those most
concerned would laugh at their apprehensions. But the hours went by, and
the affair remained inexplicable; no word was heard concerning Miss
Dalrymple's whereabouts; she seemed to have disappeared as completely as
if she had vanished on the Persian magic carpet. What could it mean? The
circumstances briefly were:

Miss Dalrymple, four or five days before Mr. Heatherbloom's term of
service came to an end, had expressed a desire to revisit her old home
and friends in the West. One of a party made up mostly of other
Californians--now residents of New York city--the girl had failed to
appear on the private car at the appointed time, and the train had
pulled out, leaving her behind. At the first important stop a telegram
had been handed to a gentleman of the party from Miss Dalrymple; it
expressed her regret at having reached the station too late owing to
circumstances she would explain later, and announced her intention of
coming on, with her maid, in a few days. They were not to wait anywhere
for her but to go right along.

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