Part 2 out of 4
The party did; it was sorry to have lost one of its most popular members
but no one thought anything more of the matter until at Denver, after a
telegram had been forwarded to the Van Rolsen house, in New York, asking
just when Miss Dalrymple would arrive, as camping preparations for a
joyous pilgrimage in the mountains were in progress.
Miss Van Rolsen gasped when this message reached her. Miss Dalrymple
and her maid--a young woman newly engaged by Miss Van Rolsen--had left
the house for the train to which the private car was attached; neither
had been heard from since. The aunt had, of course, presumed her niece
had gone as planned; she had received no word from her, but supposing
she was of a light-hearted, heedless company thought nothing of that. It
was possible Miss Dalrymple had actually missed her train; but if so,
why had she not returned to her aunt's house?
Where had she gone? What had become of her? No trace of her could be
found. Certain forces in the central railroad office at New York could
not discover any evidence that the young girl had taken a subsequent
train. There was no record of her name at any ticket office; no
state-room had been reserved by, or for her; in fact, telegrams to
officials in Chicago and other points west failed to elicit satisfactory
information of any kind.
Miss Van Rolsen found herself with something real to worry about; she
rose to the occasion; her niece, after all, was everything to her. The
Van Rolsen millions were ultimately for her, and the old lady's every
ambition was centered in the girl. She had been proud of her beauty, her
With great determination she set herself to solve the puzzling problem.
Could people thus completely disappear nowadays? It seemed impossible,
she asserted, sitting behind closed doors in her library, to the private
agent of the secret-service bureau whom she had just "called in."
He begged to differ from her and pointed to a number of cases which had
seemed just as strange and mysterious in the beginning. Ransom--the
"Black Hand"--Who could say what secret influences had been at work in
this case? It was a very important one; Miss Dalrymple had money of her
own; she was known to be her aunt's heiress. The conclusion?--But this
was not Morocco, or Turkey, Miss Van Rolsen somewhat vehemently
True; we have had, however, our "civilized" Ransuilis, answered the
agent and mentioned a number of names in support of his theory. No
doubt, after an interval, Miss Van Rolsen would have news of her
niece--through those who had perpetrated the outrage; or she might even
receive a few written words from the girl herself. After that it was a
question of negotiating, or, while professing to deal with the
perpetrators, to ferret them out if one could. The latter course was
dangerous, for those who stoop to this particular crime are usually of a
desperate type; he and Miss Van Rolsen could consider that question
later. Meanwhile she must avoid worry as much as possible. The young
girl would, no doubt, be well treated.
Had the speaker looked around at this moment, he might have observed
that the heavy curtains, drawn before the door leading into the hall and
closed by Miss Van Rolsen, moved suddenly, but neither the agent nor
Miss Van Rolsen, engrossed at the far end of the room, noticed. The
drapery wavered a moment; then settled once more into its folds.
The telegram purporting to be from Miss Dalrymple to one of the party on
the train, could--the agent went on--very easily have been sent by some
one else; no doubt, had been. The miscreants had seized upon a lucky
combination of circumstances; for two or three days, while Miss
Dalrymple was supposed to be speeding across the continent, they,
unsuspected and unmolested, would be afforded every opportunity to
convey her to some remote and, for them, safe refuge. It was a cleverly
planned coup, and could not have been conceived and consummated
without--here he spoke slowly--inside assistance.
The curtain at the doorway again stirred.
"And now, Madam, we come to your servants," said the police agent. "I
should like to know something about them."
"My servants, sir, are, for the most part, old and trusted."
"'For the most part'!" He caught at the phrase. "We will deal first with
those who do _not_ come in that category."
"There's a young man recently employed that I have not been at all
pleased with. He leaves to-morrow."
"Ah!" said the visitor. "Not the person I met going out of the area
way, with the dogs as I came in?"
She answered affirmatively.
"H--mn!" He paused. "But tell me why you have not been pleased with him,
and, in brief, all the circumstances of his coming here."
Miss Van Rolsen did so in a voice she strove to make patient although
she could not disguise its tremulousness, or the feverish anxiety that
consumed her. She related the most trivial details, seeming
irrelevances, but the visitor did not interrupt her. Instead, he studied
carefully her face, pinched and worn; the angular figure, slightly bent;
the fingers, nervously clasping and unclasping as she spoke. He watched
her through habit; and still forbore speaking, even when she referred to
the escape of her canine favorite from his caretaker and how the dog had
later been returned, though the listener's eyes had, at this point,
"After his carelessness in this matter, he seemed to want to get away
from the house at once," observed Miss Van Rolsen, "without availing
himself of the two-weeks' notice I had agreed to give him."
The visitor relapsed into his chair; an ironical light appeared in his
"Perhaps," added Miss Van Rolsen, "you attach no significance to the
"On the contrary, I attach every importance to it. Has it not occurred
to you there was a little collusion in this matter of the lost dog?"
"Collusion?" Miss Van Rolsen's accents expressed incredulity. "You must
be wrong. Why, the young woman wouldn't even accept the reward. And it
was not a small one!"
"Two hundred or so dollars, ma'am! Not her stake!" he murmured
satirically. "I am afraid two hundred thousand dollars would be nearer
the mark these people have set for themselves!"
"But she didn't ask for a place here; only for me to look over her
references--one was from a lady I knew in Paris--and to recommend her to
"She knew your other maid had left; this confederate had, of course,
told her. It was all arranged that she should come here. Rest assured of
that. And having accomplished her purpose--clever that she is!--she at
once started to ingratiate herself with your niece, to make herself
useful. As a mistress of languages she _was_ useful, in fact more so
than any ordinary maid. Where did she come from? Find out whom she
represents, and--we'll have the key to the mystery. But she, too, has
disappeared; after turning the game over to the others, perhaps. I would
suggest cabling those foreign references this young woman gave you. They
will, of course, including your Paris friend, know nothing of her; the
name she gave you was not her own."
"But by what unfortunate combination of circumstances"--Miss Van Rolsen
spoke somewhat incoherently--"should these people have been led to
settle on my niece as the victim of their cowardly designs? There are so
"You forget the publicity concerning this prince your niece is to
marry." The old lady stiffened. "Pardon my mentioning it, but Miss
Dalrymple has in this connection been very much before the public gaze."
"Against her wish, sir, and mine!" snapped Miss Van Rolsen.
"She--I--have both lamented the fact. But what can one do? The
journalists settled on the prince as a fruitful source for speculation.
He is of noble family, very wealthy, no fortune-hunter; which has made
it all the more distressing for him and us." She seemed about to say
something further; then her lips suddenly tightened. "As I say, it has
been very distressing," she ended, after a pause. "I expect it was one
of the reasons my niece wanted to get away from New York for a time."
"No doubt!" The caller's voice was courtesy itself although he probably
but half-credited Miss Van Rolsen's protestations in the matter. People
liked to complain of the press and newspaper notoriety, when in their
hearts, perhaps, they were not so displeased to be in that terrible
lime-light; especially when the person associated with them happened to
be a count, or a duke, or a prince. "Unfortunately, one has to put up
with these things," he now added. "But you are positive you have told me
An instant she seemed to hesitate. "I am positive you know everything
relative to the subject."
He arose. "In that event"--his manner indicated a sudden
resolution--"there is one little preliminary to be attended to."
"To arrest this fellow, Heatherbloom!"
"At once! There is no time to be lost. Already--" He gave a sudden
"What is it?" she asked.
He stepped toward the curtain; it moved perceptibly.
"Some one has been listening," exclaimed Miss Van Rolsen excitedly.
"Yes, some one." Significantly. As he spoke he threw back the curtain
and revealed the door partly ajar.
"It must have been--Not one of my old servants--- They would not
He stopped her. "There's the front way out of this house and the area
way below," he said rapidly. "Is there any other way of escaping to the
He darted out of the room to the front door. She followed.
"Quite in time!" he said, casting a quick look both ways along the
avenue and then letting his glance fall to the servants' entrance below.
"You think he will try to--"
He regarded her swiftly. "While I stand guard here, would you mind
getting some one to 'phone my office and ask two or three of my men to
step over at once? Not that I doubt my own ability to cope with the
case"--fingering the handle of a weapon on his pocket--"only it is
always well to take no chances. Especially now!"
"Since he has practically convicted himself and confirmed my theory. We
shall get at the truth through him. We're nearer the solution of the
matter than I dared hope for."
"I'll telephone myself!" she cried. And started back to do so when an
excited face confronted her.
"If ye plase, ma'am!" It was the cook.
"What is it?" Miss Van Rolsen spoke sharply.
"If ye plase, I think, ma'am, this Mr. Heatherbloom has taken lave av
"Why, what has he been doing?"
"He has, faith, just jumped over the fence into our neighbor's yard on
the corner, and--"
The man on the steps did not wait to hear more; with something that
sounded like an imprecation he sprang quickly down to the sidewalk and
ran toward the corner.
WHO FIGHTS AND RUNS
As Mr. Heatherbloom prepared to issue from his neighbor's gate opening
on the side street, the feminine voice of one of the servants in the
rear of the corner house called out in alarm at sight of the strange
figure speeding across their metropolitan imitation of a back yard. If
anything were needed to stimulate the fugitive's footsteps, it was the
sound of that voice. He stayed not on the order of his going, but
pushing back the heavy bolt--fortunately his egress was not barred by a
locked door--he tore open the gate and sprang to the sidewalk. Then
without stopping, he ran on, away from the fashionable avenue. The
street he traversed like many thoroughfares of its kind was
comparatively deserted most of the time; nobody impeded his progress,
though one or two people gazed after him from their windows.
He had gone about three-quarters of a block when the window spectators
discerned a heavier built figure come lumbering around the corner,
apparently in hot pursuit. Mr. Heatherbloom, glancing over his shoulder,
also observed this person; his capture and subsequent incarceration
seemed inevitable. Already the fugitive was drawing near to busier
Fourth Avenue; there he would be obliged to relax his pace; he could not
sprint down that thoroughfare without attracting undue attention.
Behind, the pursuer called out; he was, however, too short of breath for
compelling vocal effect.
Mr. Heatherbloom, on the contrary, had good control of his breathing and
was, moreover, yet fresh and physically capable. Which fact made it the
more difficult for him to settle down to a forced, albeit sharp walk as
he approached the corner, when his gait suddenly accelerated once more.
A street-car had just started not very far from him and Mr. Heatherbloom
ran after it. A fine pretext for speed was offered him; as he "let
himself go" in the way he had once gone somewhere in the past in a
hundred-yards' dash, he felt joyously conscious both of covering space
quickly and that he did so without making himself particularly
prominent. Fools who ran after street-cars were born every moment; he
was happy to be relegated to that idiotic class by any onlookers. He
caught the car while it was going; he didn't want it to stop for him.
Neither did it stop to pick up any one else for several blocks; there
was a space before it unobstructed by traffic. The motorman turned on
more power and Mr. Heatherbloom listened gratefully to the humming
wheels. At the same time he looked back; at the corner where he had
turned into Fourth avenue he fancied a number of people were gathering.
He could surmise the cause; the stockily-built man--his pursuer--was
asking questions; he had learned what had become of the fugitive and was
presumably looking around for a "taxi." In vain. At least, Mr.
Heatherbloom so concluded, because one did not appear in hot chase
The motorman still gave "rapid service"; the conductor looked at his
watch, by which Mr. Heatherbloom imagined they had time to make up. He
hoped so, then resented a pause at a corner for an old lady. How he
wished she had not been afflicted with rheumatism, and could have got on
without help! But at length the light-weight conductor did manage to
pull the heavy-weight passenger aboard. Time lost, thirty seconds! The
motorman manipulated the lever more deliberately now and they gathered
headway slowly. Mr. Heatherbloom dared not remain longer where he was;
as the car approached a corner near an elevated station, he got off. He
was obliged to walk now a short distance but he did so hastily. Drawing
near the iron steps, leading upward, he once more looked back; a "taxi"
_was_ whirling after him and he had no doubt as to its occupant. The
street-car could easily have been kept in sight and his leaving it been
Mr. Heatherbloom now threw discretion to the winds; dashing toward the
stairway he ran up. Just as he reached the ticket window, the pursuing
vehicle stopped below. Some one sprang out, did not pause to pay the
chauffeur, but calling out to him his name, started after Mr.
Heatherbloom. That gentleman had by this time boarded the train waiting
above; he stood on the rear platform. Any moment the pursuer would
appear. He did appear as the gates of the train were closed and the cars
had started on their way.
Yet he did not give up for running alongside the last car he called out
to the guard:
"Fugitive from justice! Criminal--on this train! Open the gate for me!"
An instant the guard hesitated; rules, however, were rules.
"Five hundred dollars if you let me on!" the voice panted.
The guard in his own mind decided he would let the other on--too late;
the last car dashed past the end of the platform. A faint sigh of relief
from Mr. Heatherbloom was drowned in the tumult of the wheels; then he
endeavored to appear indifferent, apathetic. It was not easy to do so;
the secret-service agent had been heard by many others.
A "fugitive from justice" on the train! Mr. Heatherbloom tried to look
as little the part as possible, to simulate by his expression a
preoccupied young business man of heavy responsibilities. Fortunately
the train was crowded; nevertheless he fancied people glanced especially
at him. He wished now he were better dressed; good clothes may cover a
multitude of sins. Still there was no reason why he should be suspected
more than sundry other indifferently-dressed people. He would dismiss
the thought, tell himself he was going down town on some little errand;
he even devised what that errand should be--to procure theater tickets.
But his brain did not seem quite capable of concentrating itself solely
on desirable orchestra chairs; it constantly and perversely reverted to
that other disagreeable subject--a "fugitive from--"
Whoever could the fellow be? He endeavored by a mental process to
eliminate himself and see but a mythical some one else in a mythical
background. A short person; a tall one? What kind of person would the
imaginary individual be, anyhow? And what had he done, what crime
committed? Mr. Heatherbloom tried to think with the minds of all these
other people on the train, to put himself figuratively in their shoes.
One young sprig of a girl, about fourteen, with sallow complexion and
bead-like black eyes, kept regarding him. He conceived a profound
dislike for her, shifted a foot; then straightened and banished her
peremptorily from his environment. His principal interest lay now in
casual glimpses of windows and speculation as to what was behind them.
He varied this employment in a passing endeavor to decipher sundry signs
that obtruded incidentally within range of vision.
He had made out only a few when the, train slackened and came to a
standstill. Mr. Heatherbloom told himself he would get off as quickly as
possible; then changed his mind and remained. People would, of course,
argue that, under the circumstances, the unknown criminal would be
among those to leave the train at the first opportunity.
A number got out; Mr. Heatherbloom noted the passengers who remained
aboard and watched closely the departing ones. A few of the latter
seemed slightly self-conscious, notably, an elderly spinster who, having
never done anything wrong, was possessed of an unusual sensitiveness.
"See that slouchy chap--By jove, I believe--"
"Does look like a tough customer--"
"On the contrary, he just looks poor." Mr. Heatherbloom turned upon the
two speakers warmly.
Why could he not have kept silent; why was he obliged to obtrude his
opinion into their conversation?
They stared and he half turned as the train banged itself along once
more. Where should he go? Reaching for a paper that some one had
discarded, he sank into a vacant seat and opened the sheet with
What would the big types say? Nothing! Miss Van Rolsen had managed to
keep the strange affair of her niece's disappearance out of the columns
of the papers. They knew nothing about it as yet--Only a single little
item in the shipping news, in fine print, which suddenly caught his gaze
bore in any way, and that a remote one, upon her niece and her affairs.
Mr. Heatherbloom regarded it with dull glance. The few lines meant
nothing to him--then; later he had cause to turn to them with abrupt
wondering avidity. Now his eyes swept with simulated interest the
general news of the day; he professed to read cable dispatches.
But an odd reaction seemed to have settled on him; the excitement of the
chase became, for the moment, forgotten. The scope of his mental
visuality no longer included the figure of the agent from the private
detective bureau. An anxiety more poignant moved him; his thoughts
centered on that other matter--the cause of Miss Van Rolsen's
apprehensions--the while those emotions that had held him a listener
behind the curtain in her library again stirred in his breast. He had
not played the eavesdropper for any selfish purpose or through a sense
of personal apprehension. The sudden realization of his own danger, had,
perforce, awakened in him the need for quick action if he would save
If? What chance had he? But for one compelling reason, one consuming
purpose, he would not have fled at all; he would have faced them,
instead! But he had work to do--he! A fugitive, a logical candidate for
the prison cell! Ironical situation! Even now he heard a voice at his
"Mr. Heatherbloom!" Some one spoke suddenly to him and he wheeled with
abrupt swift fierceness.
"Well, are you going to eat me up?" the voice laughed.
He looked into the pert face of Jane--the maid with the provoking
nose--who had been at Miss Van Rolsen's. She had got on at the other end
of the car at the last station, and after waiting a few moments for him
to see her, had moved toward him, or a seat at his side just then
vacated by some one preparing to leave. Mr. Heatherbloom's face cleared;
he banished the belligerent expression.
"You look edible enough!" he said with forced jocularity.
"Indeed?" she retorted, surprised at such gallantry from one who had
heretofore not deigned to pay her compliments. "I'll have to tell my
husband about you." Playfully. "But how are things at Miss Van Rolsen's?
Mr. Heatherbloom murmured something about the customary routine; then,
even as he spoke, became conscious of a sudden new disconcerting
circumstance. The tracks for the up and the down trains on the elevated
had widely separated and ran now on the extreme sides of the broad
thoroughfare. From his side of the car the young man was afforded a view
of the pavement below, between the two sustaining iron structures. A
chill shot through him and his smile became set. Gazing down he
discerned, on the street beneath and a little to one side of them, a
motor-car, speeding fast, apparently bent on keeping up with them.
"How--how's your husband?" he said irrelevantly. The car _was_ keeping
up with them.
"Very well, thank you." (Would _it_ reach the next station before them?)
"You--you have a pleasant home?" he asked. (A slight blockade below
impeded, momentarily, the "taxi". Mr. Heatherbloom raised his
handkerchief to his moist brow.)
"Lovely," she answered. "Are you going far?"
"Brooklyn," he said at random. What _were_ they talking about? (The car
was once more under way; fortunately their progress overhead would not
be impeded by a press of vehicles.)
"That's where we live--Brooklyn," she said.
"Is it? Got a nice house?" He had practically asked this question
before; but he hardly knew what he was saying. A policeman had stopped
the "taxi" and was shaking his head, as at a rather "fishy" story. Mr.
Heatherbloom by a species of telepathy, seemed to overhear the excited
talk waging below.
"Oh, yes; lovely!" Jane's accents were but parenthetical to something
else. The "taxi" had been allowed to proceed, in spite of the detaining
thought-waves Mr. Heatherbloom had launched toward the officer of the
law. The occupant had probably showed a badge; Mr. Heatherbloom
stretched his neck out of the window.
"You can come around and see, sometime, if you want to." Pride in her
voice. "And meet my husband." Husband was a very substantial baker.
"Charmed, I'm sure! Ha! ha!" He suddenly laughed.
"What is it?" She looked startled.
"Funniest accident!" He waved his hat, as at some one, out of the
window. "See that taxi! Bumped into a dray. Ha! ha!"
"I don't see anything so funny in that." Straightening.
"No? You should have seen the expression on his face--"
"The--ah, drayman's, of course! He--looked so mad."
"I should have thought," she observed, "the man in the car would have
been the maddest It couldn't have hurt the dray much."
"No? Perhaps that's what made it seem so funny to me."
"Well," she said, "I never noticed before that you had a great sense of
"You never knew me." Jauntily.
They got off at Brooklyn Bridge together. As they made their way through
the crowd, Mr. Heatherbloom appeared most care-free and very sedulous of
his companion's welfare, especially when they passed one or two
loiterers who seemed eying the passengers rather closely.
"Two for Brooklyn." Mr. Heatherbloom laid down a dime at the ticket
Soon, unmolested, he sped on once more; but as they crossed the busy
river all his light-heartedness seemed suddenly to desert him; the
questions he had been vainly asking himself earlier that day were
reiterated in his brain. Where was she? What had become of her? His
hands clasped closely. A red spot burned on his cheek.
A NEW-FOUND THEORY
"No; the prince isn't coming back to America, and she--Miss
Dalrymple--isn't going to marry him!"
Jane's voice, running on rather at random, suddenly with unusual force
penetrated Mr. Heatherbloom's consciousness.
"Not going--isn't--What are you talking about?" The young man's wavering
attention focused itself on her now with swift completeness. He had
hardly heard her, until a few moments before, when her conversation had
first drifted to that ever fascinating feminine topic of foreign lords
and American heiresses, then narrowed down, much to his inward
disapproval, to one particular titled individual and one particular
heiress "But you are mistaken, of course!" he said bruskly.
"Oh, am I?" she retorted. "I suppose you believe everything you read in
Mr. Heatherbloom did not answer now; he was staring out of the window.
Against the sky the jutting lines of buildings seemed to waver; new
extraordinary angles and jogs seemed to assert themselves. His gaze had
a glittering brightness when it turned. "Have you any better authority?"
His tone was a challenge. "I heard her tell him so myself," she said
succinctly. "That she could never marry him and that he must never come
Mr. Heatherbloom's hand crumpled the newspaper; then mechanically he
folded it and put it in his pocket. His look was once more bent outward;
tiny specks, that were big steamboats going very fast, seemed motionless
on the sparkling surface of the water afar. His thoughts scattered; he
tried to collect them, to realize where he was, how he happened to be
there; the identity of the speaker and what she had been saying! Certain
preconceived, fixed ideas and conclusions had been toppled over,
brushed aside in an instant. Was it possible?
"I was waiting to trim and fill the lamps," said Jane. (Miss Van Rolsen
clung to oil lamps for reading.) "The prince and she were in the
library. He has a loud voice, you know."
The young man did. "But why--"
"Search me!" Vivaciously. "He was the very pick of the whole cargo of
dukes and the like. There isn't another girl in New York would have done
"But surely," scarcely hearing her last words, "no newspaper would dare
to announce such a thing without--"
"Oh, wouldn't it? When it called up the house every day, almost, and
got: 'There is nothing to say'? Didn't I answer the 'phone once or twice
myself? 'Miss Van Rolsen declines to be interviewed concerning her
niece. She has nothing to say.' I think I once giggled, the man's voice
at the other end was so aggressive. He said he was the city editor
himself. Is that very high up?"
Mr. Heatherbloom did not seem to hear. He scarcely saw his companion
now; nevertheless, he was conscious of a desire to be alone, in order to
concentrate, consider, reach for light and find it. But where could he
discover a safe spot; his problem was a dual one; primarily, he must
consider himself; he must not forget his own desperate situation and
danger. The train, beginning to slacken, brought the sense of it once
more poignantly to mind. His companion hadn't reached the station yet
but he suddenly rose. The car stopped with a jerk; Mr. Heatherbloom
murmured something hurriedly and dived for the door.
On the street he breathed deeply, standing as in a daze while the
thunder of iron-rimmed wheels surrounded him. He was cognizant
principally of certain words humming in his brain: The prince and she
were not engaged! The nobleman not returning to America in the fall!
Never coming back!
But that item in fine print in the newspaper he had in his pocket--what
did it mean? Nothing, of course, beyond what it said; still--
Some one bumped into Mr. Heatherbloom; whereupon he suddenly realized
that he was standing on one of the busiest corners and had been making
himself as conspicuous as possible. Hastily he moved on. To what
destination? He glanced toward a convenient saloon; it looked hospitable
and inviting. Then he remembered they--man-hunters, in general--always
searched the saloons first for criminals.
He started toward a side street but paused, reasoning that he was more
prominent on comparatively isolated thoroughfares than on the swarming
ones. A stream of women flowing into a big department store, exercised
an odd attraction for him. Safety lay, perhaps, among numbers; at least,
for the time, until he could devise a course of action. If he could
conceive of one! If--
He must; he would. Every nerve in his body seemed to respond. Had he not
embarked before this on desperate adventures; had he not fought in the
face of overwhelming odds, and managed to hold his head up? A peculiar
little smile played around the corner of his thin lips; it was like the
flash of light on a blade. He joined the inflowing eddy.
Bargain day! He was crushed and crumpled but found himself ultimately on
a stool in the rear of the store. No; he didn't want any marked-down
collars or cuffs; he conveyed an impression to the solicitous clerk of
some one waiting for some one. Patiently, uncomplainingly! With an
unseeing eye for the hurrying and scurrying myriads! Time passed; he
remained oblivious to the babble of voices. Timon in the wilderness,
Diogenes in his tub, could not have been mentally more isolated from
annoying human consociation than was at the moment Mr. Heatherbloom,
perched on a rickety stool amid a conglomeration of females struggling
Suddenly he stirred. "Have you a book department?" he asked an employee.
"Straight across; last aisle to the left."
Mr. Heatherbloom got up; his tread was slow; a somnambulistic gleam
appeared in his eye. Yet he was very much awake; he had never felt more
keenly alert. He reached the book section.
Did they have any Russian fiction? Oh, yes; what kind did he want,
nihilistic or psychological? _The Fire and Sword_ kind, whatever that
was; the second volume of the trilogy, if they had it in stock? Sure
they had; but had he read the first volume? No; he didn't want that; he
would begin in the middle of the trilogy. He always read trilogies that
The young lady in charge looked what she thought as she handed him the
book. He paid her; unfortunately it cost more than the popular novels of
the day. He rather gravely contemplated the few small bills he had left;
the amount of his capital would not carry him very far, especially if
unusual expenses should occur. Miss Van Rolsen still owed him a little
money but he didn't see how he could collect that now.
Mr. Heatherbloom, armed with his book, sought a different part of the
store--- a small reception-room, where customers of both sexes were at
liberty to read, write, or indulge in mental rest-cure, after bargain
purchases. There he perused hurriedly, and by snatches, the volume;
there was plenty of fire and plenty of sword in it; human passions
bubbled and seethed. Suddenly he sat up straight and a suppressed
exclamation fell from his lips; he closed the book sharply.
One or two old ladies looked at him but he did not see them. His vision,
clairvoyant-like, seemed to have lifted, to traverse broad seas,
limitless steppes. His hands opened and closed, as if striving to reach
and clutch something beyond flame of battle, scenes of rapine.
He got up dizzily. As he stepped once more into the street, the shadows
had lengthened; twilight was falling. He stopped at a pawnbroker's,
purchased a revolver and cartridges. He might need the weapon now more
than ever. And money--he needed far more of that than he had. He spread
in his palm the little wad of greenbacks he took from his pocket;
counted them and a few silver pieces. Then seeking a ticket office, he
made a few casual inquiries; a shadow rested on his countenance as he
emerged from the place.
Next door to it a pile of gold pieces in a bank window shone mockingly
before his eyes. So near--with only the plate-glass between him and the
bright discs! Mechanically he began to count them, but suddenly turned
from that profitless occupation and stood with his back to the window.
What availed resolution without dollars? His purpose might be strong,
but poverty, a Brobdingnagian giant, laid its hand on his shoulder,
crushing him down, holding him there, impotent, until the stocky man and
his cohorts of the private detective office should come over and get
him--to send him to the little island he had thought of when crossing
the bridge to Brooklyn!
He fell back into a doorway. More money!--he must get it; must! He
folded his arms tight over his breast. To think that this should be his
one great, crying need--his!
Above, he heard footsteps descending the stairway at the foot of which
he stood; Mr. Heatherbloom slipped out of the passage to the sidewalk
and moved on. Chance took him back the way he had come; he had no choice
of direction. Now he looked once more at the window of the pawnbroker,
where he had stopped a short time before. He regarded the unredeemed
pledges; seal-rings, watches, flutes, old violins; what not? If he only
had something left; but all had gone--long ago.
All? He started slightly; considered; walked on. But he turned around,
hesitatingly, and came slowly back. As he approached the door, his step
grew more resolute. He walked briskly in. Without giving the proprietor
time to come to the front of the shop, Mr. Heatherbloom moved at once to
the back where the other sat behind his dusty glass cases.
"Here I am once more." He spoke with forced gaiety.
"What you want to buy now?"
"I don't want to buy anything; I want to sell something."
The pawnbroker's interest in the visitor at once departed.
"I have everythings! Everythings!" he grumbled. "Nearly every one wants
to sell. I have no room for noddings more. Good night!"
"But I've something special," said Mr. Heatherbloom. As he spoke he took
from an inner pocket a little parcel in pink tissue-paper; he fingered
it a moment, removing an ivory miniature from a frame, passed the paper
quickly about the picture once more, and returned it to his pocket. Then
he handed the frame, over the case, to the pawnbroker. "What do you
think of that, my Christian friend?" he said with a show of jocularity
that didn't ring quite true.
The pawnbroker bent his dull face close to the article; it was gold. A
pretty trinket, set with a number of brilliants, it might have come from
the Rue Royale or the Rue de la Paix.
"Cost about five hundred francs," observed Mr. Heatherbloom, watching
the other closely. "One hundred dollars, without the duty."
"Where'd you get it?"
"None of your business." With a smile.
The man moved toward a telephone at his back. "Do you know what I'm
going to do?"
"I am curious."
"'Phone the police."
"Is that an invitation for me to depart? If so--" Mr. Heatherbloom
reached for the little gold frame.
"Oh, no," said the man, retaining the graceful article. "The police will
find out who this belongs to."
"Tut! tut!" observed Mr. Heatherbloom lightly. Something on the edge of
the showcase pointed over it; the hand the proprietor professed to raise
toward the telephone fell to his side; he seemed about to call out.
"Don't!" said the visitor. "It's loaded; you saw me put in the
cartridges yourself. Your little game is very passe; I had it worked on
me once before, and placed you in your class--a fourth-rater, with a
crib for loot!"
The other considered; this customer's manner was ominously quiet and
easy; he didn't like it. A telepathic message that flashed from the
gleaming gaze above the shining tube suggested an utterly frivolous
indifference to tragic consequences. The proprietor moved away from the
"Fifteen dollars," he said.
"Twenty," breathed Mr. Heatherbloom insinuatingly.
The man put his hand in his pocket and counted out the money. The caller
took it, said something in those same blithe significant accents about
what would happen if the other made a move in the next two or three
minutes, then vanished from the store. He did not keep to the busy
thoroughfare now, but shot into a side street. Would the pawnbroker hide
the frame and then call the police? It was quite possible he might thus
seek to get into their good graces and revenge himself at the same time.
Mr. Heatherbloom turned from dark byway to dark byway. He knew there was
a possibility that he might keep going throughout the night without
being taken; but what would he attain by so doing, how would that profit
He had to get back to New York at once, and as speedily as possible!
The shining face of a street clock that a short time before he had
looked at, admonished him there were no moments to spare, if he would
carry out his plan, his headstrong purpose--to verify or disprove a
certain wild theory--which would take him where, lead to what? No
matter! Above, between black shadows of tall buildings, he saw a star,
bright, beautiful. Something in him seemed to leap up to it--to that
light as frostily clear as her eyes! A taxi passed; he hailed it.
"How much to Jersey City?" he asked in feverish tones.
The man approximated a figure; it was large, but Mr. Heatherbloom at
once got in.
"All right," he said. "Only let her go! I've a train to catch."
"You don't want to land us in the police court, do you?" asked the
Mr. Heatherbloom devoutly hoped not.
Two days later, on a bright afternoon, a young man stood on the edge of
a sea-wall called the Battery. It was not _the_ Battery, commanding a
view of the outgoing and incoming maritime traffic of the continent's
metropolis, but another Battery, overlooking another harbor, or estuary,
landlocked save for an entrance about a mile in width. Behind him lay,
not a great, but a little, city; hardly more than a big town; before him
a few vessels of moderate tonnage placidly plied the main or swash
The scene was tranquilizing; nevertheless the young man appeared out of
harmony with it. His face wore a feverish flush; his eyes had a restless
gleam. He had only a short time before come to town, entering in
unconventional fashion. As the train had slackened at a siding on the
outskirts he had quietly, and unperceived, slipped off the back platform
of the rear car; then made his way by devious and little frequented side
streets to the sea-front.
There, his eager gaze scanned the craft, moving in the open, or
motionless at the distant wharfs. An expression of acute disappointment
passed over his features; his eyes did not find what they sought. Had
that mad flight been for nothing? Had he but run into a new kind of
"pocket" here, all to no purpose?
Mr. Heatherbloom sat down; he was weary and worn. The dancing sparkles
laughed at him; he did not feel like "laughing back". Even as he leaned
against the parapet a newsboy close at hand called out:
"All about the mysterious abduction! One of the miscreants traced to
this city! Superintendent of police warned of his probable arrival!"
The lad looked at Mr. Heatherbloom as he shouted; that gentleman
returned his gaze with unflinching stolidness.
"What abduction?" he asked.
"Beautiful New York heiress."
The voice passed on; the fugitive was once more alone with his thoughts.
If they had been wild, turbulent before, what were they now? His hands
closed; at the moment he did not bemoan his own probable fate, only the
fact that the clue bringing him here had been false--false!
Another voice--this time a man's--accosted him. Mr. Heatherbloom sprang
swiftly to his feet but the person, an old darky, did not appear very
"Got a match, boss?" he inquired mildly.
Mr. Heatherbloom's bright suspicious glance shot into the good-humored,
open look of the other; that person's manner betrayed no ulterior
motive. Perhaps he had not yet heard the newsboy; did not
know--Mechanically the young man answered that he did not possess the
article required, but the intruder still lingered; he had accosted the
other partly because of a desire for desultory conversation. Mr.
Heatherbloom, after a moment's careful scrutiny, showed a disposition to
be accommodating in this regard; he even took the initiative--suddenly,
asking question after question about this boat and that. Her name; when
she had come; where she was going; of what her cargo consisted? The
other replied willingly. Like many of his kind in the port, although he
could not read or write, he was wise in harbor-front knowledge, knew all
the floating tramps and the sailing craft.
"I suppose it's always about the same old boats drop in here?" Mr.
Heatherbloom, after a little, observed insinuatingly.
"Yes, always de same ole tubs," assented the darky.
A shadow crossed the other's face, but he managed to assume a light air.
"Battered hulks and sailing brigs of a past generation, eh?" He put the
case strongly, but the darky only nodded smilingly. His strong point in
conversation was in agreeing with people; he even forgot patriotism
toward his own port in being amiable.
Mr. Heatherbloom glanced now beyond them to the right and the left; but
no one whom he had reason to fear came within scope of his vision. His
figure relaxed. When would they come to take him? The newsboy's words
reiterated themselves in his mind. "Traced to this city!" Of course;
Miss Van Rolsen's millions were at the command of the secret-service
bureau; his description had been telegraphed far and wide. And when it
should be fruitful of results, what would become of his theory?
Nevertheless, he would go on, while he could, to the last.
If he tried to explain they would consider it but a paltry blind to
cover his own criminality. He could expect no help from them; he had to
triumph or fail through his own efforts. To fail, certainly; it was
For the moment something in his breast pocket seemed to burn there, a
tiny object, now without the frame. Involuntarily he raised his hand;
then his figure swayed; the street waved up and down. He had eaten
little during the last two or three days. Scornfully in his own mind he
berated that momentary weakness and steadied himself. His eyes, cold and
clear, now returned to the colored man; he groped for and took up the
thread of the talk where he had left it.
"Old hulks and brigs! You don't ever happen to have any really fine
boats come in here, do you? Like Mr. Morgan's big private yacht, for
"No; we ain't never seen dat craft yere. Dis port's more for lumber
Mr. Heatherbloom looked down. "I saw an item in the paper"--he strove to
speak unconcernedly--"a Marconigram--that a certain Russian prince's
private yacht--the _Nevski_--had damaged her propeller, or some other
part of her gear, and was being towed into this harbor for emergency
"Oh, yes, boss!" said the man. The listener took a firmer grip on the
parapet. "You done mean de big white boat w'at lies on de odder side ob
de island; can't see her from yere. Dey done fix her up mighty quick an'
she gwine ter lebe to-night."
"Leave to-night!" Mr. Heatherbloom's face changed; suppressed eagerness,
expectancy shone from his eyes; he turned away to conceal it from the
other. "Looks like good fishing over there near the island," he observed
after a pause.
"Tain't so much for fishin' as crabbin'," returned the other.
"Crabbing!" repeated Mr. Heatherbloom. "A grand sport! Now if--are you a
crabber?" The darky confessed that crabbing was his main occupation; his
boat swung right over there; for a dollar he would give the other
several hours' diversion.
Mr. Heatherbloom accepted the offer with alacrity. A few moments later,
seated in a dilapidated cockle-shell, he found himself slamming over the
water. The boat didn't ship the tops of many seas but it took in enough
spray over the port bow to drench pretty thoroughly the passenger. In
the stern, the darky handling the sheet of a small, much patched sail,
kept himself comparatively dry. But Mr. Heatherbloom didn't seem to mind
the drenching; though the briny drops stung his cheek, his face
continued ever bent forward, toward a point of land to the right of
which lay the island that came ever nearer, but slowly--so slowly!
He could see the top of the spars of a vessel now over the high
sand-hills; his body bent toward it; in his eyes shone a steely light.
Their little boat drew closer to the near side of the island; the
hillocks stood up higher; the tapering topmasts of the craft on the
other side disappeared. The crabber's cockle-shell came to anchor in a
tranquil sandy cove.
Mr. Heatherbloom, although inwardly chafing, felt obliged to restrain
impatience; he could not afford to awaken the darky's suspicions,
therefore he simulated interest and--"crabbed". He enjoyed a streak of
good luck, but his artificial enthusiasm soon waned. He at length
suggested trying the other side of the island, whereupon his pilot
What more did his passenger want? The latter thought he would stretch
his legs a bit on the shore; it made him stiff to sit still so long. He
would get out and walk around--he had a predilection for deserted
islands. While he was gratifying his fancy the darky could return to his
more remunerative business of gathering in the denizens of the deep.
Five minutes later Mr. Heatherbloom stood on the sandy beach; he started
as if to walk around the island but had not gone far before he turned
and moved at a right angle up over the sand-hill. The dull-hued bushes
that somehow found nourishment on the yellow mound now concealed his
figure from the boatman; the same hardy vegetation afforded him a
shelter from the too inquisitive gaze of any persons on the yacht when
he had gained the summit of the sands.
There, he peered through the leaves down upon a beautiful vessel. She
lay near the shore; whatever her injury, it seemed to have been repaired
by this time for few signs of life were apparent on or about her. Steam
was up; a faint dun-colored smoke swept, pennon-like, from her white
funnels. Some one was inspecting her stern from a platform swung over
the rail, and to Mr. Heatherbloom's strained vision this person's
interest, or concern, centered in the mechanism of her rudder. The
trouble had been there no doubt, and if so, the yacht had probably come,
or been brought near the island at high water, and at low tide any
damage she might have suffered had been attended to. Her injury must
have been more vexatious than serious. Would she, as the darky had
affirmed, leave when the tide was once more at its full? Her lying in
the outer, instead of in the inner harbor, seemed significant. Time
passed; the person on the platform regained the deck and disappeared. In
the bushes the watcher suddenly started.
Something at one of the port windows had caught his glance. A ribbon? A
fluttering bit of lace? A woman's features that phantom-like had come
and vanished? He looked hard--so steadily that spots began to dance
before his sight, but he could not verify that first impression. Yet he
remained. The shadows on the furze grew longer, falling in strange
angular shapes down the hillside; the sun dipped low. At length Mr.
Heatherbloom, after the manner of one who had made up his mind to
something, abruptly rose.
He walked back toward the cove where he had disembarked. As he drew near
the darky caught sight of him, pulled up "anchor" and paddled his boat
to the shore. But Mr. Heatherbloom did not at once get in; his eyes
rested on the bushel or so of freshly caught, bubble-blowing crabs. He
strove to appear calm and matter-of-fact.
"What do you expect to get for them?" he asked, pointing.
"'Bout fifty cents de dozen, boss. Crab market ain't what it ought ter
be jest now."
"Why don't you try to sell them to the yacht over there?" Mr.
Heatherbloom managed to speak carelessly but it was a difficult task.
"Jest becos she is 'over there', boss," returned the darky lazily.
"Mighty swift tide sweeping around de head of dat island!" he
"And you don't like rowing against it?" Quickly. "See here, I'll tell
you what I'll do. I like a bit of exercise, and just for the gamble,
I'll give you sixty cents a dozen for the lot, and keep all I can get
over that. The owner of that craft is a Russian and all Russians like
sea food. When they can't get caviar, they'll no doubt make a bid for
"Dat sounds like berry good argumentation, boss. Make it
seventy"--avarice struggling on the dusky countenance--"an'--"
"Done!" said Mr. Heatherbloom, endeavoring to disguise the fierce
eagerness welling within him. "Here's on account!" Tossing his last bill
to the other. "And now, get out. It'll be easier pulling without you."
The darky grinned and obeyed. This was a strenuous passenger truly, not
averse to stiff rowing, after a stiff walk, "jest for pleasure". But the
dusky pilot had met these anomalous white beings before--"spo'tsmen",
they called themselves. And a certain sense of humor, as Mr.
Heatherbloom sat down to the oars, caused the colored man involuntarily
to hum: _I'se got a white man a-workin' for me_. He had only finished a
bar or two, however, when the tune abruptly ceased on his lips. "Dat's
too bad," he said. "I guess de deal's off, boss." Regretfully.
"Eh?" Mr. Heatherbloom looked around. He meant to keep the man to his
bargain now, by force if necessary.
"Look dar!" continued the darky.
Mr. Heatherbloom did look in the direction indicated. A puff of black
smoke could be seen rising over the island, and--significant fact!--the
dark smudge seemed to be crawling along beyond the sky-line of the
sand-hill. The young man turned pale.
"It's de Russian yacht, boss. She's under way all right!"
Mr. Heatherbloom continued to gaze. Where the island was lower he saw
the topmasts moving along--then the boat herself, white, beautiful,
swinging out from behind, with bow pointed seaward and steaming fast.
"Dat's too bad," murmured the colored man. "I done be powerful
The other did not answer. Going! going! He had waited too long to board
her. He could not reach her now--he would never reach her. The flame of
the dying sun flared in Mr. Heatherbloom's face, but he continued
ON THE ROAD
Gone! It was the only word he, could think of. Every thought, every
emotion centered around it. He could not reason or argue. No plan
occurred to him now. He continued to sit still, seeing but one
picture--a boat vanishing. Night had begun to fall as they returned to
the city. Its lights played mockingly in the darkness. Mr. Heatherbloom
viewed them with apathetic gaze. The secret-service man, the chief of
police and his assistants were on shore somewhere waiting to capture
him, but he did not care. Let them take him now! What did it matter?
When the boat reached land he got out like an automaton. Perhaps he made
answer to the darky's last cheerful good night, but if so he spoke
without knowing it. The boatman let him go, willingly; Mr. Heatherbloom
hadn't asked for his last bill back again and the other overlooked
reminding him of his remissness. The greenback was considerably more
than the fare.
Indifferent to his fate, Mr. Heatherbloom moved on; no one molested him.
He walked along dark highways, not through fear of being apprehended,
but because his mood was dark. He did not even notice where he went; he
just kept going. He forgot he was hungry, but at length, as in a dream,
he began to realize a physical weariness. Overwrought nature asserted
itself; he was not made of iron; his muscles responded reluctantly.
Without observing his surroundings, he sank listlessly to the earth; the
cool grass received his exhausted frame. Beyond, some distance away, the
lights of the city threw now a sullen glow on the sky. All was
comparatively still about him; the noise of the city was replaced by the
lighter sound of vehicles on the well kept, almost non-resounding
country road. It seemed to be a main thoroughfare, but with little life
and animation about it at that evening hour. A buggy did go by
occasionally, however, and, not far from Mr. Heatherbloom, at a curb,
stood a motor-car.
He had suffered himself to relax on the ground in front of a small house
set well back among spectral-looking trees and surrounded by a stone
wall overgrown with foliage. Mr. Heatherbloom remained unmindful of his
surroundings. The lamps of the car near by were not lighted; a single
figure on the front seat was barely distinguishable. Now this person got
down and lighted a cigarette; he seemed restless, walked to and fro, and
glanced once or twice at the house. From a single window a faint light
gleamed; then it vanished, only to reappear a few moments later at
another window. Among the masses of foliage fireflies glistened; a
tree-toad began to make a sound but almost immediately stopped. The
front door had apparently opened and some person or persons came out.
The faint crunchings on the gravel indicated more than one person. Now
they stepped on the grass, for there were no audible indications of
their approach. The man near the machine threw quickly away his
cigarette and opened the door of the car. Several people, issuing from
the gate, crossed the sidewalk and got in. Mr. Heatherbloom was hardly
aware of the fact; they seemed but unmeaning shadows.
The driver bent over and lighted one of his lamps. As he did so, the
flare revealed for an instant his face--square, rather handsome and
bearded. A faint flicker of interest, for some reason undefinable to
himself at the moment, swept over Mr. Heatherbloom. He had been lying
where the grass was tall and now raised himself on his elbow, the better
to peer over the waving tops. The car had gathered headway and swung out
into the road, when suddenly some one in it laughed and uttered an
exclamation in a foreign tongue. That musical note--a word he did not
understand--was wafted to Mr. Heatherbloom. It acted upon him like a
galvanic shock; he sprang to his feet and, bewildered, stared after the
machine. What had happened; was he dreaming? He could hardly at first
believe the evidence of his senses, for the laugh, coming back to him in
the night, was that of the woman for whom he had procured employment at
Miss Van Rolsen's. He could have sworn to the fact now. And the man
whose countenance he had so briefly seen was, no doubt, of her own
Involuntarily, without realizing what he did, Mr. Heatherbloom started
to run in the direction the car had gone, but he soon stopped. What
madness!--to attempt to catch a sixty-horse-power machine! Why, it was
nearly a mile away already. The young man stood stock-still while a
cogent reaction swept over him. The woman had passed within fifty feet
of where he had lain, head near the earth, moping. A mocking desire to
atone for a great remissness found him impotent. There seemed nothing
for him to do now but to reconcile himself to the irreconcilable, to
stay here, while every desire urged him to follow her, to learn why this
woman was in the car and who was with her. Naturally, he had expected
she would be on the yacht now steaming away out to sea, and here she
was. A new enigma confronted him.
Mr. Heatherbloom continued to stand in the center of the road. His head
whirled; he panted hard, out of breath from his recent dash. A loud
honk! honk! from another machine coming unexpectedly up behind, caused
him to leap aside just in time. The second car whizzed by, although
obeying an impulse born on the instant, he called out wildly, waving his
arms to bring it to a halt. If they saw his strange motions--which was
unlikely, the night being dark--they did not heed them. Soon the second
machine was some distance away; then its rear light gleamed like a
vanishing coal and suddenly disappeared altogether around a bend of the
He looked back; no other vehicle of any description was in sight now.
But it profited nothing to continue passive, immovable. He had to act,
to walk on, no matter how slowly; his face, at least, was set in the
direction the woman had gone. How long it took him to reach the turn of
the thoroughfare he could not tell, but at length there, he came again
to an abrupt stop. Some distance ahead in the road appeared a machine,
motionless--waiting, or broken down.
Which car was it? The one containing the woman, or the other that came
after? If the former--He pressed on eagerly, yet keeping to the shadows,
alive once more to the need of caution. His heart pounded hard; he could
see a form passing in front of the machine; the light of the lamp
enabled him now to make out the other occupants--three men. No woman was
with them. This became poignantly, irrefutably evident as he drew
nearer. He could see plainly the empty car and the trio of figures; he
could hear them talking but was not yet able to distinguish what they
said. These were the people whose attention he had tried to attract back
there in the road. His purpose then, occurring to him in a flash,
renewed itself strongly now. He would ask their aid; circumstances might
enable him to do so now with better grace. He had had a good deal of
experience with cars of divers kinds and makes at different times in the
past. Why not proffer these strangers his fairly expert services? He
felt sure he could soon learn, and repair, what was wrong with the
machine. Having made himself useful, he could then intimate that a
"lift" down the road would be acceptable. And he would probably get it.
But he did not carry out his intention. Something he heard as he came
closer to them caused him to hesitate and reconsider. Mixed with
anathemas directed against the car, of rather a cheap type, were words
that had for him more than passing significance. These men were after
some one, and that the some one was none other than himself, Mr.
Heatherbloom soon became fully convinced. Fate had been kinder to him
than he knew when he had endeavored, and failed, to win their notice. He
crouched back now against a rail fence; their low disgruntled tones were
still borne to him. For some moments they continued to work over the
machine without apparently being able to set it to rights.
"If this goes on much longer," said one of them, "he'll get away from
"Providin' he's there!" grumbled another. "People are always seeing an
escaped criminal in a dozen different localities at the same time."
Brownville! The listener soon divined, from a sentence dropped here and
there, that the place was a little fishing village a short distance down
the coast. He surmised, also, that they had by this time the main harbor
of the city fairly watched as far as outgoing vessels were concerned,
and were reaching out to prevent a possible exit from the smaller
community. Fishing craft leaving from there could easily take out a
fugitive and thus enable him to escape. This contingency the authorities
were now endeavoring to avert; that they also had some kind of a clue,
pointing to their present destination and inciting them to make haste
thither, was evident from the skeptical remark Mr. Heatherbloom had
A series of explosions, as sudden as spasmodic, broke in on the
listener's thoughts. "Hurray!" said one. "We're off!"
And they were, quickly. Mr. Heatherbloom also moved with extreme
abruptness and expedition. Waiting in the shadow until they had all
sprung into the car and the machine had fairly started, he then darted
forward, seized a strap and clinging as best he might, hoisted himself
to the place in the rear designed for a trunk. One desire only, in
resorting to this expedient, moved him--to get in touch as soon as
possible, if possible, with the other car. This machine, of inferior
build, suggested, it is true, a dubious way to that end but it was the
best that offered.
He did not see the incongruity of his position, of being a passenger,
though secretly and surreptitiously, of the car containing those
embarked on a mission so closely concerning himself. Instead of fleeing
from them he was actually courting their company, pursuing himself, as
it were! At another time he might have smiled; now the situation had for
him nothing of the comic; it was tragically grim, also decidedly
unpleasant. A strong odor of gasolene permeated his nostrils until he
was nearly suffocated by it and all the dust, stirred by their flight,
swirled up on him, making it difficult to refrain from coughing.
Fortunately the machine had a monopoly on noises, and any sound from him
would have passed unnoticed. He had ridden the "bumpers" not so long ago
on freights, and, perforce, indulged in kindred uncomfortable methods of
free transportation in the course of his recent career, but he had never
experienced anything quite so little to be desired as this.
The driver had begun to speed; as if to make up for lost time, he was
forcing the engine to its limit. The machine, of light construction,
shook violently, negotiated the steep places with jumps and slid down on
the other side with breakneck velocity. The dust thickened about Mr.
Heatherbloom's head so that he could scarcely see. His arms ached and
every bump nearly tore him loose. He wound the strap around his wrist
and strove to ensconce himself deeper in a place not large enough for
him. He was on an edge all the time, and felt as if he were falling
over every moment; the edge, too, was sharp and dug into him.
Mr. Heatherbloom, however, had little thought of bodily discomfort; he
was more concerned in making progress and the difficulty of maintaining
his position. His only fear was that he would be compelled to abandon
his place because his physical energy might not be equal to the demands
put upon it. He set his teeth now and began to count the seconds. The
faster they went, the better was his purpose served; he strove to find
encouragement in the thought. The other car could make a superior
showing in the way of speed, but it might stop voluntarily somewhere
after a while, or something might happen to arrest its progress. The
race did not always belong to the swift. He endeavored to formulate some
plan as to just what he would do if he did finally manage to overtake
the woman and her party, but at length ceased trying. Sufficient unto
the moment were the problems thereof; he could but strive in the
present. He dispelled the fear that he could not hold on much longer,
and filled himself with new determination not to yield. But even as he
did so, a bigger bump than any they had yet encountered jerked him
abruptly from his place.
When finally he managed to collect himself and his senses and sit up
uncertainly in the road, the car was far away. The snap of exploding
gasolene grew faint--fainter--then ceased altogether.
IN THE NIGHT
A wayworn figure, some time thereafter, moved slowly along the deserted
road, where it ran like a winding ribbon over the top of a great bluff.
A sea wind, coming in varying gusts, bent low the long grass and rustled
in the bushes. The moon had escaped from behind dark clouds in a stormy
sky and threw its rays far and wide. They imparted a frosty sheen to the
wavy surface between road and sea and brightened the thoroughfare,
which, lengthening tortuously, disappeared beneath in a tangle of forest
Mr. Heatherbloom gazed wearily down the road, then over the grass. In
the latter direction, afar, a strip of ocean lay like an argent stream
flowing between the top of the bank and the horizon. Toward that
illusory river he, leaving the main highway, walked in somewhat
discouraged fashion. It might avail him little, so much time had
elapsed, but from the edge of the bluff he would be afforded a view of
the surrounding country and the topography of the coast.
A vast spread of the ocean unfolded to his gaze before he had reached
the brink of the prominence. His heavy-lidded eyes, sweeping to the
right, rested on a heterogeneous group of dwellings scattered well above
the sands and directly below a wooded uprising of land. Myriad specks of
light glimmered amid shadowy roofs. Brownville? Undoubtedly! A board
walk ran along the ocean and a small pier extended like an arm over the
water. On the faintly glistening sands old boats, drawn up here and
there, resembled so many black footprints.
Not far from where Mr. Heatherbloom stood a path went downward, a
shorter way to the village than by the road he had just left. He stared
unthinkingly a moment at the narrow walk; then began mechanically to
descend. A dull realization weighed on him that when he reached his
destination the woman would be far away. He wondered why he had gone on,
under the circumstances--why he had ever thought he stood a ghost of a
chance of overtaking her? Only the hopelessness of the situation, in all
its grim verity, faced him now.
The path zigzagged through the bushes. At a turn the village was lost to
sight; in front was a sheer fall to the sea. As he kept on, projecting
branches struck him and raising his hand to guard his face, he, tripped
and almost fell. Recovering himself, he glanced down; something had
caught on his shoe and he leaned over to loosen it. His fingers closed
on a long strip of soft substance--a veil, the kind worn by women
motoring! Mr. Heatherbloom's eyes rested on it apathetically, then with
a sudden flash of interest; a faint but heavy perfume emanated from the
silky filament. It was darkish in hue--brown, he should say; the Russian
woman was partial to that color. The thought came to him quickly; he
stood bewildered. What if it were hers? Then how had it come here, on
this narrow foot-path, unless--Had the big car stopped at the top of the
promontory and discharged its passengers there? But why should it have
done so; for what possible reason?
He could think of none. Other women came this way--the path was not
difficult. Other women wore brown veils. And yet that odd familiar
fragrance--It seemed to belong to a foreign bizarre personality such as
Crushing in his palm the veil he thrust it into his pocket. He would
find out more below, possibly; if she had actually passed this way. A
feverish zest was born anew; the authorities were looking for her as
well as for himself, he remembered. She, apparently, had so far cleverly
evaded them; if he could but lead them to her he would not mind so much
his own apprehension. Her presence in the locality at the same time the
_Nevski_ had been in the harbor would fairly prove the correctness of
his theory of Miss Dalrymple's whereabouts. If he could now deliver the
Russian woman into the hands of the law, he would have a wedge to force
the powers that be to give credence to at least the material part of his
story--that the prince had left port with the young girl--and to compel
them to see the necessity of acting at once. That he, himself, would be
held equally culpable with the woman was of no moment.
Fatigue seemed to fall from his shoulders. He went along more swiftly,
inspired with new vague hopes. Down--down! The voice of the sea grew
nearer; now he could hear the dull thud of the waves, then the weird
whistling sounds that succeeded. Springing from a granite out-jutting to
the sands, he looked eagerly, searchingly, this way and that. He saw no
one. His gaze lowered and he walked from the dry to the wet strand.
There he stopped, an exclamation escaping his lips.
A faint light, falling between black rocks, revealed fresh footprints on
the surface of the sands, and, yes!--a long furrow--the marks of the
keel of a boat. He studied the footprints closer, but without
discovering signs of a woman's; only the indentations of heavy seamen's
boots were in evidence. Mr. Heatherbloom experienced a keen
disappointment; then felt abruptly reassured. The impress of her lighter
tread had been eliminated by the men in lifting and pushing to launch
the boat. Their boots had roughly kicked up the sand thereabouts.
He was fairly satisfied the woman had embarked. The seclusion of the
spot favored the assumption; the fishing-boats were all either stranded,
or at anchor, nearer the village. But why and whither had she gone? The
ocean, in front, failed to answer the latter question, and his glance
turned. On the one hand was the village; on the other, high, almost
perpendicular rocks ran seaward, obscuring the view. It would not be
easy to get around that point; without a boat it could not be done.
Mr. Heatherbloom began to walk briskly toward the village; the moon
threw his shadow in odd bobbing motions here and there. Once he stopped
abruptly; some one on the beach afar was approaching. A fisherman? Mr.
Heatherbloom crouched back among the rocks, when the person came to a
halt. Clinging to the shadows on the landward side of the beach the
young man continued to advance, but cautiously, for a single voice might
now start a general hue and cry. Beyond, closer to town, he could see
other forms, small dark moving spots. Not far distant, however, lay the
nearest boat; to get to her he had to expose himself to the pale
glimmer. No alternative remained. He stepped quickly across the sand,
reached the craft and strove to launch her. But she was clumsy and
heavy, and resisted his efforts. The man, whoever he might be, was
coming closer; he called out and Mr. Heatherbloom pushed and struggled
more desperately--without avail! He cast a quick glance over his
shoulder; the man was running toward him--his tones now rang out loudly,
authoritatively. Mr. Heatherbloom did not obey that stern command to
halt; instead he made a wild abrupt dash for the sea. The report of a
revolver awoke the echoes and a bullet whizzed close. Recklessly he
plunged into the water.
The man on the shore emptied his weapon, but with what success he could
not tell. A head amid the dark waves was not easily discernible. Another
and larger object, however, was plainly apparent about a hundred yards
from land--a fishing-boat that swung at anchor. Would the other succeed
in reaching it, for that was, no doubt, his purpose, or had one of the
leaden missives told? The man, with weapon hot, waited. He scanned the
water, then looked toward the town. A number of figures on the beach
were hastening in his direction; from the pier afar, a naphtha put out;
he could hear faintly the sound of the engine.
Suddenly, above the boat at anchor near the man on shore, a sail shot
up, then fluttered and snapped in the wind. A moment later it was drawn
in, the line holding the craft to the buoy slipped out, and the bow
swung sharply around. Mr. Heatherbloom worked swiftly; one desire moved
him--to get around that point before being overtaken--to discover what
lay beyond. Then let happen what would! He reached for a line and
hoisted a jib, though it was almost more canvas than his small craft
could carry. She careened and plunged, throwing the spray high. He
turned a quick glance back toward the naphtha. The sky had become
overcast, and distant objects were not so easily discernible on the
surface of the water, but he made out her lights--two! She was head on
He looked steadily ahead again. The grim line of out-jutting rocks--a
black shadow against the sky--exercised a weird fascination for him. He
was well out in the open now where the wind blew a half-gale. His figure
was wet from the sea but he felt no chill. Suddenly the hand gripping
the tiller tightened, and his heart gave a great bound; then sank. Not
far from that portentous point of land he saw another light--green! A
boat was emerging from the big basin of water beyond. The starboard
signal, set high above the waves, belonged to no small craft such as the
woman had embarked in. The sight of it fitted a contingency that had
flashed through his brain on the beach. The realization left him
helpless now--his last opportunity was gone!
He shifted the tiller violently, recklessly. At that moment a shrill
whistle from behind reminded him once more of the naphtha; he could have
laughed. What was the wretched little puffing thing to him now? The
single green light--that alone was the all in all. It belonged to the
_Nevski_ he was sure; for one reason or another she had but made
pretense of going to sea, and, instead, had come here--to wait. The
woman was on her now, and, also--The thought maddened him.
Again that piercing whistle! The naphtha was coming up fast; amid the
turmoil of his thoughts he realized this vaguely. He did not wish to
find himself delivered unto them yet--not just yet! A wilder
recklessness seized him. Clouds sped across the heavens like gripping
furies' hands; the water ran level to his boat's gunwales but he refused
to ease her. All the while he was drawing nearer the single green
light--a mocking light, signal of a mocking chase that had led, and
could lead, to nothing. Still he went on, tossed by the waves--sport of
them. He had to play the play out. Oh, to see better, to visualize to
the utmost the last scene of his poignant drama of failure!
In the naphtha some one's voice belched through a megaphone; he laughed
outright now. Come and get him, if they wanted him! He would give them
as merry a dash as possible. His boat raced madly through the
water--nearer, yet nearer the green light. Now a large dark outline
loomed before him; he would have to stop, to come about in a moment,
or--A great wave struck him, half filling his boat, but he did not seem
A dazzling white glow suddenly surrounded him; from the naphtha a
search-light had been flashed. It fell on him fully, sprinkled over on
the wild hurtling waves beyond, and just touched the side of the
outgoing vessel. Mr. Heatherbloom looked toward the vessel and his
pupils dilated. The light leaped into the air with the motion of the
naphtha, and, in an instant was gone, but the impress of a single detail
remained on his retina--of a side ladder, lowered, no doubt, for the
woman, and not yet hoisted into place on the big boat.
The wildness of the sea seemed to surge through Mr. Heatherbloom's
veins; he did not come about; he did not try to. Now it was too late!
That ladder!--he would seize it as they swept by. Closer his boat ran; a
swirl of water caught him, threw him from his course. He made a frantic
effort to regain it but without avail. The big steel bow of the great
boat struck and overwhelmed the little craft.
On the _Nevski_, the lookout forward walked slowly back and forth. Once
or twice he shook his head. But a few moments before the yacht had run
down a small boat, he had reported the matter, and--the _Nevski_ had
continued ahead, full speed. She had not even slackened long enough to
make the usual futile pretense of extending assistance to the
unfortunate occupant, or occupants. His excellency, Prince Boris,
evidently did not wish, or had no time, to bother with blunderers; if
they got in his way so much the worse for them. The lookout, pausing to
stare once more ahead, suddenly started. Though apathetic, like most of
the lower class of his countrymen, he uttered a faint guttural of
surprise and peered over the bow. A voice had seemed to rise from the
very seething depths of the sea. Naturally superstitious, he made the
sign of the cross on his breast while tales of dead seamen who came back
played through his dull fancy.
Once more he heard it--that voice that seemed to mingle with the wailing
tones of the deep! The little swinging lantern beneath the bowsprit
played on his bearded face as he bent farther forward, and, with growing
wonder not unmixed with fear, now made out something dark clinging to
one of the steel lines that ran from the projecting timber to the ship.
It took the lookout a few moments to realize that this dark object that
had a voice--albeit a faint one--could not be other than a recent
occupant of the small boat he had seen disappear. This person must have
leaped upward at the critical moment, and caught one of the taut strands
upon which he had somehow managed to hoist himself and to which he now
clung desperately. It was a precarious position and one that the motion
of the yacht made but briefly tenable.
Satisfied that the dark object was a reality and not an unwonted
visitation, the lookout began deliberately to unloosen a gasket. Moments
might be eternity to the man below, but Muscovite slowness is not to be
hurried. The yacht's bow poised in mid air a breathless instant; chaos
seemed leaping upward toward Mr. Heatherbloom, when something--a
line--struck and rubbed against his cheek. He seized and trusted himself
to it eagerly. The sailor was strong; he pulled in the rope. Mr.
Heatherbloom came up, but his strength was almost gone. He would have
let go when iron fingers closed on his wrists, and after that he
remembered no more.
He awoke in a berth in a fo'castle, and it was daylight. Through a
partly-opened hatch he could see the fine spray that came over the side
of the yacht. Amid misty particles touched by the sun shone a tiny
segment of rainbow. This Mr. Heatherbloom watched with a kind of
childish interest; then stretched himself more luxuriously on the hard
bunk. It was very fine having nothing more important and arduous to do
than watching prismatic hues; his thoughts floated back to long
forgotten wonder-days when he had possessed that master-marvel of toys,
a kaleidoscope, and on occasion had importantly permitted the
golden-haired child in the big house on the top of the hill to--
The dream was abruptly dispelled by some one laying a tarry hand on his
shoulder. Mr. Heatherbloom raised himself. The person had a
characteristic Russian face. For a moment the young man stared at the
stolid features, then looked around him. He saw the customary
furnishings of such a place; hammocks, bags and chests, several of the
last marked with Russian characters. A trace of color sprang to Mr.
Heatherbloom's face; he realized now what boat he was actually on, and
what it all meant to him. He could hardly believe, however, and
continued to regard the upside down odd lettering, when the sailor, who
had so unceremoniously disturbed him, motioned him to get out. Mr.
Heatherbloom obeyed; he felt very stiff and somewhat light-headed, but
he steadied himself against the woodwork. The sailor drew a dipperful
of hot tea from a samovar and thrust it into his hand. He drank with
avidity; after which the sailor made him to understand he was to follow.
The young man hesitated--a new risk confronted him. To whom would he be
taken? The prince? He had once been standing in the area way of the Van
Rolsen house when the nobleman had approached. Had the distinguished
visitor then been so absorbed in the sight of Miss Dalrymple coming down
the steps that he had utterly failed to observe the humble caretaker of
canines? Possibly--and again possibly not. In the former contingency he
might yet have a brief breathing-spell to think--to plan for the future,
unless--There was another to reckon with--the woman he had met in the
park, whose automobile he had attempted to follow. She, too, was on the
boat! He had been her dupe once. Was he now to become her victim?
The young man's jaw set. There was no holding back now, however; he had
to go on--and he did, with seeming indifference and bold enough step.
At the top of the ladder the sailor passed him on to some one else--an
officer--who led him this way and that until they reached a secluded
part of the deck, where, near the rail, stood a tall dark figure, glass
in hand. Until the last moment Mr. Heatherbloom had hoped it might be
only the captain he would be called on to encounter, and that that
august person would summarily dispose of him, ordering him somewhere out
of sight, below, to work his passage in the sailors' galley, perhaps. He
would have welcomed the most ignominious service to have found now a
respite--to be enabled to escape discovery a little longer. But the
wished-for contingency had not arisen. He faced the inevitable.
"The man, your Excellency!"
His excellency looked. He had been scanning the horizon and his
expression was both moody and preoccupied. Mr. Heatherbloom bent
slightly forward; his lids fell to conceal a sudden glitter in his eyes;
his hand touched something hard in his pocket. If his excellency
recognized him--There was one way--a last mad desperate way to serve,
to save her. It would be the end-all for him, but his life was a very
small thing to give to her. He did not value it greatly--that physical
self that had been such an ill servant. He gazed at the prince now with
veiled expectancy, his attitude seemingly relaxed, innocent of
strenuosity. Would the prince's gaze flare back with a spark of
remembrance? If in that tense instant it had done so, then--
But his excellency regarded Mr. Heatherbloom blankly; his eyes were
"You mean the fellow we ran down?" The prince spoke as if irritated by
"The same, Excellency!" The officer stepped back. Mr. Heatherbloom did
"What did you get in our way for?" The prince's voice had a metallic
ring; he towered, harshly arrogant, over his uninvited passenger. "Don't
you know enough to get out of the way?"
"It appears not, sir." Heatherbloom wondered at the sound of his own
voice. It seemed to come, small and quiet, from so far off. His
excellency had not recognized him, but was he suspicious? Maybe not. No
one would be fool enough to get deliberately in the way of the
fast-steaming _Nevski_. Small craft were numerous in the bay and
accidents to them would happen. There was nothing so out of the ordinary
for a big boat to run down a tiny craft. It was somewhat uncommon for
any one in the wee boat to save himself, truly, but even in this feature
of the present case the prince experienced but a mild interest.
"Who are you?" he said. "A fisherman?"
"Not exactly," answered Mr. Heatherbloom, "though sometimes I crab. I
was crabbing yesterday."
As he spoke his gaze swept beyond to not far-distant cabin doors and
windows. He and the prince were standing on the starboard side of the
boat; it was this side that had faced the island when the young man had
gazed down upon the yacht from the big sand-hill, and fancied he had
"What am I going to do with you?" The prince seemed more out of temper
now. "My crew are all Russians and I don't want any of your--" He
stopped; shifting lights played ominously in his gaze; a few
dissatisfied lines on his face deepened. "I didn't ask you to come
aboard," he ended with an angry gesture.
"Sorry to intrude!" Mr. Heatherbloom spoke at random. "But I really
couldn't help it, don't you know. No time to ask permission."
His excellency frowned. Did he suspect in these words an attempt at that
insidious American humor he had often vainly endeavored to fathom? Mr.
Heatherbloom gazed at him now with seemingly innocent but really very
A superb specimen of over six feet of masculinity, the prince was
picturesquely attired in Russian yachting-garb while a Cossack cap
adorned a visage as bold and romantic as any young woman might wish to
gaze upon. And gazing upon it himself--that rather stunning picture the
prince presented on his own yacht--a sudden chill ran through Mr.
Heatherbloom. This titled paragon refused by Miss Dalrymple? A feudal
lord who made your dapper French counts and Hungarian barons appear but
small fry indeed, by contrast! The light of the sea seemed suddenly to
dazzle Mr. Heatherbloom. A wild thought surged through his brain. Betty
Dalrymple, bewildering, confusing, made up of captivating
inconsistencies, had sometimes been accused by people of a capacity for
doing the wildest things. Had she for excitement--or any other
reason--eloped with the prince? Were they, perhaps, married even now? He
dismissed the thought quickly. All the circumstances pointed against
this theory; his original one was--must be--correct.
"Well, now you are here, I suppose I've got to keep you." The prince had
"I suppose so," said Mr. Heatherbloom absently. He was studying now the
near-by cabin windows. One, with beautiful lace and glimpses of pink
beyond, caught his glance.
"What can you do?" Sharply.
"Oh, a lot of things!" Had the curtain waved? His heart thumped hard--he
scarcely saw the prince now.
"Not manage a sail-boat, I'm convinced." He forced himself to turn
again, as through a mist was aware of his excellency's sneering
countenance. "Judging from your recent performance!"
"That was hardly a fair test," Mr. Heatherbloom replied anyhow. His
thoughts were keyed to a straining-point; his glance _would_ swerve; he
strove his best to control it. She was there--there--Shrouds and stays
seemed to sing the words. He would have sworn he caught the flash of a
"Why not?" Was the prince still examining, questioning him? Again a
primal impulse was suppressed, though his muscles were like whipcords.
He yet compelled himself to endure the ordeal. What was the query about?
Ah, he remembered.
"Well, you see, I must have lost my head." It was not a bright answer
but he did not care; it was the best that occurred.
The prince strode restlessly away a few paces, then returned. "Were you
ever at sea before?"
"I once owned a y----" Mr. Heatherbloom paused--with an effort resumed
his part and a smile somewhat strained: "I once went on a cruise on a
gentleman's yacht." Some one _was_ in the state-room; was overhearing.
His head hummed; the refrain of the taut lines rang louder.
"What as? Cabin-boy, cook?"
"Why, you see--" The prince certainly did not see him--he was once more
staring away, over the dark water--"I acted in a good many capacities.
Kind of general utility, as it were. Doing this, that, and the other!"
"'The other', I should surmise." Contemptuously.
Mr. Heatherbloom moved; the curtain had moved again. "Where are you
going?" he asked a little wildly. "You see I might have important
business on shore." Foolish talk,--yet it fitted in as well as anything.
The prince, for his part, did not at first seem to catch the other's
words; when he did he laughed loudly, sardonically. "That is good;
excellent! _You_ have 'important business'!"
"Yes; important," repeated Mr. Heatherbloom. "I--" He got no further.
His eyes met another's at the window, rested a moment on a woman's face
which then suddenly vanished. But not before he realized that she, too,
had seen him--seen and recognized. He had caught in that fleeting
instant, wonder, irony, incredulity--a growing understanding! Then he
heard a soft laugh--a musical but devilish laugh--Sonia Turgeinov's!
THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES
Mr. Heatherbloom stood as if stunned, his face very pale. For the
instant all his suppressed emotion concentrated on this woman--his evil
genius--who had betrayed him before and who would betray him again, now.
He waited, breathing hard. Why did she not appear? Why did not the blow
fall? He could not understand that interval--nothing happening. Was she
but playing with him? The prince had abruptly turned; apparently he had
not heard that very low laugh. Bored, no doubt, by the interview, he had
started to walk away, almost at the same time Mr. Heatherbloom had
caught sight of the face at the window. As in a dream Mr. Heatherbloom
now heard his excellency's brusk voice addressing a command to the
officer, listened to the latter a moment or two later, addressing him.
"Come along!" The officer's English was labored and guttural.
Mr. Heatherbloom's eyes swung swiftly from the near-by door through
which he had momentarily expected the woman to emerge. Involuntarily he
would have stepped after the vanishing figure of the prince--what to do,
he knew not, when--
"_Non, non_," said the officer, intervening. "Hees excellenz dislikes to
be--importuned." The last word cost the speaker an effort; to the
listener it was hardly intelligible, but the officer's manner indicated
plainly his meaning. Mr. Heatherbloom managed to hold himself still; he
seemed standing in the center of a vortex. The prince had by this time
gone; the woman did not step forth. This lame and impotent conclusion
was out of all proportion to the seemingly inevitable. He could scarcely
realize it was he--actually he!--who, after another pause, followed the
officer, with scant interest, hardly any at all, to some inferno where
flames leaped and hissed.
He could not but be aware of them, although the voice telling him that
he would remain here, make himself useful, and, incidentally, work his
way among the stokers, sounded very far off. He could have exclaimed
scoffingly after the disappearing officer, not anxious to linger any
longer than necessary here. Work his way, indeed! How long would he be
permitted to do so? When would he be again sent for, and dealt with--in
He shoveled coal feverishly though the irony of the task smote him, for
in feeding the insatiable beds, he was with his own hand helping to
furnish the energy that wafted her, he would have served, farther and
farther from the home land. Every additional mile put between that shore
and the boat, increased the prince's sense of power. He was working for
his excellency and against her. In a revulsion of feeling he leaned on
his shovel, whereupon a besooted giant of the lower regions tapped his
shoulder. This person--foreman of the gang--pointed significantly to the
inactive implement. His brow was low, brutish, and he had a fist like a
hammer. Mr. Heatherbloom lifted the shovel and looked at the low brow
but, fortunately, he did not act on the impulse. It was as if some
detaining angel reached down into those realms of Pluto and, at the
critical moment, laid a white hand where the big paw had touched him.
The young man resumed his toil. After all, what did it matter?--some one
would shovel the stuff. That brief revolt had been spasmodic,
sentimental. Here where the heat was almost intolerable and the red
tongues sprang like forked daggers before dulled eyes, brutality and
hatred alone seemed to reign. The prince might be the prodigal,
free-handed gentleman to his officers; he was the slave-driver, by
proxy, to his stokers. He who dominated in that place of torment had
been an overseer from one of the villages the prince owned; these men
were the descendants of serfs.
Once or twice Heatherbloom rather incoherently tried to engage one or
two of them in conversation, to learn where the yacht was going--to
Southern seas, across the Atlantic?--but they only stared at him as if
he were some strange being quite beyond their ken. So he desisted; of
course they could not understand him, and, of course, they knew nothing
he wished to know. In this prison a sense of motion and direction was as
Fortunately Mr. Heatherbloom's muscles were in good condition and there
was not a superfluous ounce on him, but he needed all his energies to
escape the fist and the boot that day, to keep pace with the others. The
perspiration poured from his face in sooty rivulets; he knew if he gave
way what kind of consideration to expect. He was being tested. The
foreman's eyes, themselves, seemed full of sparks; there was something
tentative, expectant in their curious gleam as they rested on him.
Heatherbloom now could hardly keep to his feet; his own eyes burned. The
flames danced as if with a living hatred of him; in a semi-stupor he
almost forgot the sword, without, that swung over him, held but by a
thread that might be cut any instant.
He could not have lasted many minutes more when relief came; sodden
sullen men took the places. Heatherbloom staggered out with his own
herd; he felt the need of food as well as rest. He groped his way
somewhere--into a dark close place; he found black-looking bread--or,
was it handed to him? He ate, threw himself down, thought of her!--then
ceased to think at all. The sword, his companions or specters no longer
existed for him.
It may be some spiritual part of him during that physical coma, drew
from a supermundane source beatific drafts, for he awoke refreshed, his
mind clear, even alert. He gazed around; he, alone, moved. His
companions resembled so many bags of rags cast here and there; only the
snores, now diminuendo, then crescendo, dispelled the illusion. A
smoking lamp threw a paucity of light and a good deal of odor around
them. Was it night? The shadows played hide-and-seek in corners; there
was no sound of the sea.
Mr. Heatherbloom moved toward a door. His pulses seemed to throb in
rhythm with the engines whose strong pulsations shook those limp
unconscious forms. He opened the iron door and looked out. Only
blackness, relieved by a low-power electric light, met his gaze. He
crept from the place.
Why did not some one rise up to detain him? Surely he was watched. He
experienced an uncanny sense of being allowed to proceed just so far,
when invisible fingers would pounce upon him, to hurl him back. The soot
still lay on his face; he had seen no bucket and water. At the mouth of
a tunnel-like aperture, he hesitated, but still no one sprang in front,
or glided up from behind to interfere with his progress. He went on; a
perpendicular iron ladder enabled him to reach an open space on the
deserted lower deck. Another ladder led to the upper deck. Could he
mount it and still escape detection? And in that case--to what end?
A bell struck the hour. Nine o'clock! He counted the strokes. Much time
had, indeed, passed since leaving port. The yacht, he judged, should be
capable of sixteen knots. Where were they now? And where was she--in
what part of the boat had they confined the young girl? Come what might,
he would try to ascertain. Creeping softly up the second ladder, he
peered around. Still he saw no one. It was a dark night; a shadow lay
like a blanket on the sea. He felt for his revolver--they had not taken
it from him--- and started to make his way cautiously aft, when
something he saw brought him to an abrupt halt.
A figure!--a woman's!--or a young girl's?--not far distant, looking
over the side. The form was barely discernible; he could but make out
the vague flutterings of a gown. Was it she whom he sought? How could he
find out? He dared not speak. She moved, and he realized he could not
let her go thus. It might be an opportunity--no doubt they would suffer
the young girl the freedom of the deck. It would be along the line of a
conciliatory policy on the prince's part to attempt to reassure her as
much as possible after the indignities' she had suffered. The watcher's
eyes strained. She was going. He half started forward--to risk all--to
speak. His lips formed a name but did not breathe it, for at that moment
the swaying of the boat had thrown a flicker of light on the face and
Mr. Heatherbloom drew back, the edge of his ardor dulled.
The woman moved a few steps, this way and that; he heard the swish of
her skirts. Now they almost touched him, standing motionless where the
shadows were deepest, and at that near contact a blind anger swept over
him, against her--who held him in her power to eliminate, when she
would--When? What was her cue? But, of course, she must have spoken
already--it was inconceivable otherwise. Then why had the prince not
acted at once, summarily? His excellency was not one to hesitate about
drastic measures. Mr. Heatherbloom could not solve the riddle at all. He
could only crouch back farther now and wait.
Through the gloom he divined a new swiftness in her step, a certain
sinuosity of movement that suddenly melted into immobility. A red spot
had appeared close by, burned now on blackness; it was followed by
another's footstep. A man, cigar in hand, joined her.
"Ah, Prince!" she said.
He muttered something Heatherbloom did not catch.
"What?" she exclaimed lightly. "No better humored?"
His answer was eloquent. A flicker of light he had moved toward revealed
his face, gallant, romantic enough in its happier moments, but now
distinctly unpleasant, with the stamp of ancestral Sybarites of the
Petersburg court shining through the cruelty and intolerance of
The woman laughed. How the young man, listening, detested that musical
gurgle! "Patience, your Highness!"
The red spark leaped in the air. "What have I been?"
"That depends on the standpoint--yours, or hers," she returned in the
"It is always the same. She is--" The spark described swift angry
"What would you--at first?" she retorted laughingly. "After all that
has taken place? _Mon Dieu_! You remember I advised you against this
madness--I told you in the beginning it might not all be like Watteau's
masterpiece--the divine embarkation!"
"Bah!" he returned, as resenting her attitude. "You were ready enough
for your part."
She shrugged. "_Eh bien?_ Our little Moscow theatrical company had come
to grief. New York--cruel monster!--did not want us. _C'en est fait de
nous_! Your Excellency met and recognized me as one you had once been
presented to at a merry party at the Hermitage in our beloved city of
churches. Would I play the _bon camarade_ in a little affair of the
heart, or should I say _une grande passion_? The honorarium offered was
enormous for a poor ill-treated player whose very soul was ready to sing
_De Profundis_. Did it tempt her--forlorn, downhearted--"
She paused. Close by, the spark brightened, dimmed--brightened, dimmed!
Mr. Heatherbloom bent nearer. "At any rate, she was honest enough to
attempt to dissuade you--in vain! And then"--her voice changed--"since
you willed it so, she yielded. It sounded wild, impossible, the plan you
broached. Perhaps because it did seem so impossible it won over poor
Sonia Turgeinov--she who had thrown her cap over the windmills. There
would be excitement, fascination in playing such a thrilling part in
real life. Were you ever hungry, Prince?" She broke off. "What an absurd
question! What is more to the point, tell me it was all well done--the
device, or excuse, of substituting another motor-car for her own, the
mad flight far into the night, down the coast where save for that
mishap--But I met all difficulties, did I not? And, believe me, it was
not easy--to keep your little American inamorata concealed until the
_Nevski_ could be repaired and meet us elsewhere than we had originally
planned. _Dieu merci!_ I exclaimed last night when the little spitfire
was brought safely aboard." Mr. Heatherbloom breathed quickly. Betty
Dalrymple, then, had been with the woman in the big automobile--
"Why don't you praise me?" the woman went on. "Tell me I well earned
the _douceur_? Although"--her accents were faintly scoffing--"I never
dreamed _you_ would not afterward be able to--" Her words leaped into a
new channel. "What can the child want? _Est-ce-qu'elle aime un autre_?
That might explain--"
An expletive smacking more of Montmartre than of the Boulevard
Capucines, fell from the nobleman's lips. He brushed the ash fiercely
from his cigar. "It is not so--it won't explain anything," he returned
violently. "Didn't I once have it from her own lips that, at least, she
was not--" He stopped. "_Mon Dieu!_ That contingency--"
Suddenly she again laughed. "Delicious!"
"Nothing. My own thoughts. By the way, what has become of the man we
picked up from the sail-boat?"
The prince made a gesture. "He's down below--among the stokers. Why do
"It is natural, I suppose, to take a faint interest in a poor fisherman
you've almost drowned."
"Not I!" Brutally.
"No?" A smile, enigmatical, played around her lips. "How droll!"
"Heartless, then. But you great nobles are that, a little, eh, _mon
He shrugged and returned quickly to that other more interesting subject.
"_Elle va m'epouser!_" he exclaimed violently. "I will stake my life on
it. She will; she must!"
"Must!" The woman raised her hand. "You say that to an American girl?"
"We're not at the finis yet!" An ugly crispness was manifest in his
tones. "There are ports and priests a-plenty, and this voyage is apt to
be a long one, unless she consents--"
"Charming man!" She spoke almost absently now.
"Haven't I anything to offer? _Diable_! One would think I was a beggar,
not--am I ill-looking, repugnant? Your sex," with a suspicion of a
sneer, "have not always found me so. I have given my heart before, you
will say! But never as now! For she is a witch, like those that come out
of the reeds on the Volga--to steal, alike, the souls of fisherman and
prince." He paused; then went on moodily. "I suppose I should have
gone--allowed myself to be dismissed as a boy from school. 'I have
played with you; you have amused me; you no longer do so. Adieu!' So she
would have said to me, if not in words, by implication. No, _merci_," he
broke off angrily. "_Tant s'en faut_! I, too, shall have something to
He made a swift gesture, threw his cigar into the sea and walked off.
"How tiresome!" But the words fell from the woman's lips uneasily. She
stretched her lithe form and looked up into the night. Then she, too,
disappeared. Mr. Heatherbloom stood motionless. She knew who he was and
yet she had not revealed his secret to the prince. Because she deemed
him but a pawn, paltry, inconsequential? Because she wished to save the
hot-headed nobleman from committing a deed of violence--a crime,
even--if he should learn?
The reason mattered little. In Mr. Heatherbloom's mind his excellency's
last words--all they portended--excluded now consideration of all else.
He gazed uncertainly in the direction the nobleman had gone; suddenly
started to follow, stealthily, cautiously, when another person
approached. Mr. Heatherbloom would have drawn back, but it was too