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A Man and His Money by Frederic Stewart Isham

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late--he was seen. His absence from the stokers' quarters had been
discovered; after searching for him below and not finding him, the giant
foreman had come up here to look around. He was swinging his long arms
and muttering angrily when he caught sight of his delinquent helper. The
man uttered a low hoarse sound that augured ill for Mr. Heatherbloom.
The latter knew what he had to expect--that no mercy would be shown him.
He stepped swiftly backward, at the same time looking about for
something with which to defend himself.

CHAPTER XVI

THE DESPOT

Prince Boris, upon leaving Sonia Turgeinov, ascended to the officers'
deck. For some moments he paced the narrow confines between the
life-boats, then stepped into the wheel-house.

"How is she headed?"

An officer standing near the man at the helm, answered in French.

"This should bring us to"--the nobleman mentioned a group of
islands--"by to-morrow night?"

"Hardly, Excellency."

The prince stared moodily. "Have you sighted any other vessels?"

"One or two sailing-craft that have paid no attention to us. The only
boat that seemed interested since we left port was the little naphtha."

The nobleman stood as if he had not heard this last remark. About to
move away, he suddenly lifted his head and listened. "What was that?" he
said sharply.

"What, your Highness?"

"I thought I heard a sound like a cry."

"I heard nothing, Excellency. No doubt it was but the wind--it is loud
here."

"No doubt." A moment the nobleman continued to listen, then his
attention relaxed.

"Shall I come to your excellency later for orders?" said the officer as
the prince made as if to turn away.

"It will not be necessary. If I have any I can 'phone from the cabin--I
do not wish to be disturbed," he added and left.

"His excellency seems in rather an odd mood to-night," the officer,
gazing after, muttered. "Nothing would surprise me--even if he commanded
us to head for the pole next. Eh, Fedor?" The man at the helm made
answer, moving the spokes mechanically. Nor' west, or sou' east--it was
all one to him.

Prince Boris walked back; before a little cabin that stood out like an
afterthought, he again paused.

Click! click! The wireless! His excellency, stepping nearer, peered
through a window in upon the operator, a slender young man--French. A
message was being received. Who were they that thus dared span space to
reach out toward him? _Ei! ei_! "The devil has long arms." He recalled
this saying of the Siberian priests and the mad Cossack answer:
"Therefore let us ride fast!" The swaying of the yacht was like the
rhythmic motion of his Arab through the long grass beyond the Dnieper,
in that wild land where conventionality and laws were as naught.

He saw the operator now lean forward to write. The apparatus, which had
become silent again, spoke; the words came now fast, then slow. Flame of
flames! What an instrument that harnessed the sparks, chased destiny
itself with them! They crackled like whips. The operator threw down his
pen.

"Excellency!" He almost ran into the tall motionless figure. "Pardon! A
message--they want to establish communication with the _Nevski_--to
learn if we picked up a man from--"

"Have I not told you to receive all messages but to establish
communication with no one? _Mon Dieu_! If I thought--"

"Your excellency, can depend upon me," Francois protested. "Did not my
father serve your illustrious mother, the Princess Alix, all his life at
her palace at Biarritz? Did not--"

The prince made a gesture. "I can depend upon you because it is to your
advantage to serve me well," he said dryly. "Also, because if you
didn't--" He left the sentence unfinished but Francois understood; in
that part of the Czar's kingdom where the prince came from, life was
held cheap. Besides, the lad had heard tales from his father--a
garrulous Gascon--of his excellency's temper--those mad outbursts even
when a child. There was a trace of the fierce, or half-insane
temperament of the great Ivan in the uncontrollable Strogareff line, so
the story went. Francois returned to his instrument; his excellency's
look swept beyond. He heard now only the sound of the sea--restless, in
unending tumult. The wind blew colder and he went below.

But not to rest! He was in no mood for that. What then? He hesitated, at
war with himself. "Patience! patience!" What fool advice from Sonia
Turgeinov! He helped himself liberally from a decanter on a Louis Quinze
sideboard in the beautiful _salle a manger_. The soft lights revealed
him, and him only, a solitary figure in that luxurious place--master of
all he surveyed but not master of his own thoughts. He could order his
men, but he could not order that invisible host. They made him their
servant. He took a few steps back and forth; then suddenly encountered
his own image reflected in a mirror.

"Boris, the superb"; "a tartar toreador of hearts"; "Prince of roubles
and kopecs"! So they had jestingly called him in his own warm-cold
capital of the north, or in that merry-holy city of four hundred
churches. His glance now swept toward a distant door. "Faint heart ne'er
won--"

Had he a faint heart? In the past--no! Why, then, now? The passionate
lines of the poets sang in his ears--rhythms to the "little dove", the
"peerless white flower"! He passed a big hand across his brow. His
heart-beats were like the galloping hoofs of a horse, bearing him
whither? Gold of her hair, violet of her eyes! Whither? The raving mad
poets! Wine seemed running in his blood; he moved toward the distant
door.

It was locked--of course! For the moment he had forgotten. Thrusting his
hand into his pocket, he drew out a key and unsteadily fitted it. But
before turning it he stood an instant listening. No sound! Should he
wait until the morrow? Prudence dictated that course; precipitancy,
however, drove him on. Now, as well as ever! Better have an
understanding! She would have to accede to his plans, anyway--and the
sooner, the better. He had burned his bridges; there was no drawing back
now--

He turned slowly the knob, applied a sudden pressure to the door and
entered.

A girl looked up and saw him. It was a superbly decorated salon he had
invaded. Soft-hued rugs were on the floor and draperies of cloth of gold
veiled the shadows. Betty Dalrymple had been standing at a window,
gazing out at night--only night--or the white glimmer from an electric
light that frosting the rail, made the dark darker. She appeared neither
surprised nor perturbed at the appearance of the nobleman--doubtlessly
she had been expecting that intrusion. He stopped short, his dark eyes
gleaming. It was enough for the moment just to look at her. Place and
circumstance seemed forgotten; the spirit of an old ancestor--one of the
great khans--looked out in his gaze. Passion and anger alternated on his
features; when she regarded him like that he longed to crush her to him;
instead, now, he continued to stand motionless.

"Pardon me," he could say it with a faint smile. Then threw out a hand.
"Ah, you are beautiful!" All that was oriental in him seemed to vibrate
in the words.

Betty Dalrymple's answer was calculated to dispel illusion and glamour.
"Don't you think we can dispense with superfluous words?" Her voice was
as ice. "Under the circumstances," she added, full mistress of herself.

His glance wavered, again concentrated on her, slender, warm-hued as an
houri in the ivory and gold palace of one of the old khans--but an houri
with disconcerting straightness of gaze, and crisp matter-of-fact
directness of utterance. "You are cruel; you have always been," he said.
"I offer you all--everything--my life, and you--"

"More superfluous words," said Betty Dalrymple in the same tone, the
flash of her eyes meeting the darkening gleam of his. "Put me ashore,
and as soon as may be. This farce has gone far enough."

"Farce?" he repeated.

"You have only succeeded in making yourself absurd and in placing me in
a ridiculous position. Put me ashore and--"

"Ask of me the possible--the humanly possible--" He moved slightly
nearer; her figure swayed from him.

"You are mad--mad--"

"Granted!" he said. "A Russian in love is always a madman. But it was
you who--"

"Don't!" she returned. "It is like a play--" The red lips curved.

He looked at them and breathed harder. Her words kindled anew the flame
in his breast. "A play? That is what it has been for you. A mild comedy
of flirtation!" The girl flushed hotly. "Deny it if you can--that you
didn't flirt, as you Americans call it, outrageously."

An instant Betty Dalrymple bit her lip but she returned his gaze
steadily enough. "The adjective is somewhat strong. Perhaps I might have
done what you say, a little bit--for which," with an accent of
self-scorn, "I am sorry, as I have already told you."

He brought together his hands. "Was it just a 'little bit' when at
Homburg you danced with me nearly every time at the grand duchess' ball?
_Sapristi_! I have not forgotten. Was it only a 'little bit' when you
let me ride with you at Pau--those wild steeplechases!--or permitted
me to follow you to Madrid, Nice, elsewhere?--wherever caprice took
you?"

"I asked you not to--"

"But with a sparkle in your eyes--a challenge--"

"I knew you for a nobleman; I thought you a gentleman," said Betty
Dalrymple spiritedly.

Prince Boris made a savage gesture. "You thought--" He broke off. "I
will tell you what you thought: That after amusing yourself with me you
could say, _'Va-t-en!'_ with a wave of the hand. As if I were a clod
like those we once had under us! American girls would make serfs of
their admirers. Their men," contemptuously, "are fools where their women
are concerned. You dismiss them; they walk away meekly. Another comes.
_Voila!_" He snapped his fingers. "The game goes on."

A spark appeared in her eyes. "Don't you think you are slightly
insulting?" she asked in a low tense tone.

"Is it not the truth? And more"--with a harsh laugh--"I am even told
that in your wonderful country the rejected suitor--_mon Dieu!_--often
acts as best man at the wedding--that the body-guard on the holy
occasion may be composed of a sad but sentimental phalanx from the army
of the refused. But with us Russians these matters are different. We can
not thus lightly control affairs of the heart; they control us,
and--those who flirt, as you call it, must pay. The code of our honor
demands it--"

"Your honor?" It was Betty Dalrymple who laughed now.

"You find that--me--very diverting?" slowly. "But you will learn this is
no jest."

She disdained to answer and started toward a side door.

"No," he said, stepping between her and the threshold.

"Be good enough!" Miss Dalrymple's voice sounded imperiously; her eyes
flashed.

"One moment!" He was fast losing self-control. "You hold yourself from
me--refuse to listen to me. Why? Do you know what I think?" Vehemently.
The words of Sonia Turgeinov--"_Est ce qu'elle aime un autre_?"--flamed
through his mind. "That there is some one else; that there always was.
And that is the reason you were so gay--so very gay. You sought to
forget--"

A change came over Betty Dalrymple's face; she seemed to grow whiter--to
become like ice--

"You let me think there wasn't any one; but there was. That story of
some one out west?--you laughed it away as idle gossip. And I believed
you then--but not now. Who is he--this American?" With a half-sneer.

"There is no one!--there never has been!" said the girl with sudden
passion, almost wildly. "I told you the truth."

"Ah," said Prince Boris. "You speak with feeling. When a woman denies in
a voice like that--"

"Let me by!" The violet eyes were black now.

"Not yet!" He studied her--the cheeks aflame like roses. "He shall never
have you, that some one--I will meet him and kill him first--I swear
it--"

"Let me by!"

"_Carissima!_ Your eyes are like stars--the stars that look down on one
alone on the wild steppe. Your lips are red flowers--poppies to lure to
destruction. They are cruel, but the more beautiful--"

He suddenly reached out, took her in his arms.

The cry on her lips was stifled as his sought and almost touched them.
At the same moment the door of the cabin, by which the prince had
entered, was abruptly thrown open.

CHAPTER XVII

THE PRINCE IS PUZZLED

His excellency turned. The intruder's eyes were bloodshot from the glare
of the furnaces, his face black, unrecognizable, from the soot. "What
the dev--" began the nobleman, as if doubting the evidence of his
senses.

He must have relaxed his hold, for the girl tore herself loose. She did
not pause, but running swiftly to the inner door she had just turned
toward, she hastily closed and locked it behind her. As she disappeared
Mr. Heatherbloom stopped an instant to gaze after her; but the prince,
with sagging jaw and amazement in his eyes, continued to regard only
him.

"Who the--" he began again furiously.

The intruder's reply was a silent one. His excellency would have stepped
back but it was too late. Mr. Heatherbloom's fist struck him fairly on
the forehead. Behind the blow was the full impetus of the lithe form
fairly launched across the spacious cabin. The prince went down,
striking hard.

But he was up in a moment and, mad with rage, made a rush. The other,
quick, agile, evaded him. The prince's muscles had lost some of their
hardness from high living and he was, moreover, unversed in the great
Anglo-American pastime. He strove to seize his aggressor, to strangle
him, but his fingers failed to grip what they sought. At the same time
Mr. Heatherbloom's arms shot up, down and around, with marvelous
precision, seeking and finding the vulnerable spots. The prince soon
realized he was being badly punished and the knowledge did not serve to
improve his temper. Had he only been able to get hold of his opponent he
could have crushed him with his superior weight. A stationary table,
however, in the center of the room assisted Mr. Heatherbloom in eluding
the wild dashes, the while he continued to lunge and dodge in a most
businesslike manner.

Panting, the prince had, at length, to pause. His face revealed several
marks of the contest and the sight did not seem displeasing to Mr.
Heatherbloom. A quiet smile strained his lips; a cold satisfaction shone
in the bloodshot eyes.

"Come on," he said, stepping a little from the table.

The prince did not respond to the invitation. His dazed mind was working
now. Through bruised lids he regarded the soot-masked intruder--a
nihilist, no doubt! His excellency had had one or two experiences with
members of secret societies in the past. There was a nest of them in New
Jersey. Though how one of them could have managed to get aboard the
_Nevski_, he had no time just then to figure out. The nobleman looked
over his shoulder toward a press-button.

"Come on!" repeated Mr. Heatherbloom softly.

The nobleman sprang, instead, the other way, but he did not reach what
he sought. Mr. Heatherbloom's arm described an arc; the application
was made with expert skill and effectiveness. His excellency swayed,
relaxed, and, this time, remained where he fell. Mr. Heatherbloom locked
the door leading into the dining _salle_--the other, opening upon the
deck, he had already tried and found fastened--and drew closer the
draperies before the windows. Then returning to the prince, he prodded
gently the prostrate figure.

"Get up!" His excellency moved, then staggered with difficulty to his
feet and gazed around. "You'll be able to think all right in a moment,"
said Heatherbloom. "Sit down. Only," in crisp tones, "I wouldn't move
from the chair if I were you. Because--" His excellency understood;
something bright gleamed close.

"Are you going to murder me?" he breathed hoarsely. His excellency's
cousin--a grand duke--had been assassinated in Russia.

"I wouldn't call it that." The prince made a movement. "Sit still." The
cold object pressed against the nobleman's temples. "If ever a scoundrel
deserved death, it is you."

Plain talk! The prince could scarcely believe he heard aright; yet the
thrill of that icy touch on his forehead was real. His dark face showed
growing pallor. One may be brave--heroic even, but one does not like to
die like a dog, to be struck down by a miserable unclean
terrorist--hardly, from his standpoint, a human being--unfortunately,
however, something that must be dealt with--not at first, under these
circumstances, with force--but afterward! Ah, then? The prince's eyes
seemed to grow smaller, to gleam with Tartar cunning.

"What do you want?" he said.

"Several things." Mr. Heatherbloom's own eyes were keen as darts.
"First, you will give orders that the _Nevski_ is to change her
course--to head for the nearest American port."

"Impossible!" the prince exclaimed violently.

"On the contrary, it is quite possible. We have the fuel, as I can
testify."

His excellency's thoughts ran riot; it was difficult to collect them,
with that aching head. The fellow must be crazy; people of his class
usually are, more or less, though they generally displayed a certain
method in their madness, while this one--

"I must remind your excellency that time is of every importance to me,"
murmured Mr. Heatherbloom. "Hence, you will do what I ask, _at once_,
or--"

"Very well." His excellency spoke quickly--too quickly. "I'll give the
order." And, rising, he started toward the door.

"Stop!"

The prince did. Venom and apprehension mingled in his look. Mr.
Heatherbloom made a gesture. "You will give the order; but here--and as
I direct." His voice was cold as the gleaming barrel. "That 'phone,"
indicating one on the wall, "connects with the bridge, of course. Don't
deny. It will be useless."

His excellency didn't deny; he had a suspicion of what was coming.

"You will call up the officer in command on the bridge and give him the
order to make at once for the nearest American port. You will ask him
how far it is and how soon we can get there? Beyond that, you will say
nothing, make no explanations, or utter a single superfluous word."

"Very well." The prince, seemingly acquiescent, but with a dangerous
glitter in his eyes, moved toward the telephone.

"One moment!"

The nobleman stopped with his hand near a receiver. His fingers
trembled.

"You will speak in French. A syllable of Russian, just one, and--" Mr.
Heatherbloom's expression left no doubt as to his meaning.

"Dog!" His excellency's swollen face became the hue of paper. An instant
he seemed about to spring--then managed to control himself. "But why
should I not speak in Russian? My officers know no French."

"A lie! Nearly all Russian officers speak French. I happen to know yours
do." A newspaper article had made the statement and he did not doubt it.
"Anyhow, you give the order in French and we'll see what happens."

The blood surged in the nobleman's face. The fierce desire to avenge
himself at once on this man who threw the lie at him--august,
illustrious--mingled, however, with yet another feeling--one of
bewilderment. The fellow had spoken these last words in French, and
choice French at that. His accents had all the elegance of the Faubourg
Saint Germain.

"Quick!" The decision in the intruder's manner was unmistakable. "I have
wasted all the time I intend to. My finger trembles on the trigger."

The prince, perforce, _was_ quick. The telephone of foreign design, had
two receivers. His excellency took one. Mr. Heatherbloom reached for the
other and held it to his ear with his left hand. His right, holding the
weapon, was behind the prince, as the latter poignantly realized.
Ill-suppressed rage made his excellency's tones now slightly wavering:

"Are you there, M. le Capitaine?"

"Steady!" Mr. Heatherbloom whispered warningly in his excellency's free
ear, emphasizing the caution with a significant pressure from his right
hand. At the same time he caught the answer from afar--a deferential
voice:

"_Oui,_ Excellence." There was, fortunately, on the wires a singing
sound that would serve to drown evidences of emotion in the nobleman's
tone. "Excellence wishes to speak with me?" went on the distant voice.

"I do." The prince breathed fast--paused. "You will change the boat's
course, and--" He spoke with difficulty. A warmer breath fanned his
cheek; he felt a sensation like ice on the back of his neck. "Make for
the nearest American port. How far is it?" Mr. Heatherbloom's prompting
whisper was audible only to his excellency.

"Five hours," came over the wire.

Mr. Heatherbloom experienced a thrill of satisfaction. They were nearer
the coast than he had supposed. He knew the yacht had been taking a
southerly course; he had considered that when the bold idea came to act
as he was doing. Possibly the prince had been driven out of the last
port by the publicity attendant upon Mr. Heatherbloom's presence there,
before certain needed repairs had been completed. These, Mr.
Heatherbloom now surmised, it was his excellency's intention to have
attended to in some island harbor before proceeding with a longer
voyage.

Only five hours!

"Good-by!" now burst from the nobleman so violently that Mr.
Heatherbloom's momentary exultation changed to a feeling of
apprehension. But M. le Capitaine had evidently become accustomed to
occasional explosive moments from his august patron. He concerned
himself only with the command, not the manner in which it was given.

"Eh? _Mon Dieu_! Do I hear your excellency aright?" His accents
expressed surprise, but not of an immoderate nature. He, no doubt,
received many arbitrary and unexpected orders when his excellency went
a-cruising.

"Repeat the order." Heatherbloom's whisper seemed fairly to sting the
nobleman's disengaged ear.

The latter did repeat--savagely--jerkily, but the humming wires tempered
the tones. M. le Capitaine understood fully; he said as much; his
excellency should be obeyed--Mr. Heatherbloom pushed the nobleman's head
abruptly aside, covering the mouthpiece with his hand. Perhaps he
divined that irresistible malediction about to fall from his
excellency's lips.

"Hang it up," he said.

The nobleman's breath was labored but he placed his receiver where it
belonged; Mr. Heatherbloom did likewise. Both now stepped back. Upon the
prince's brow stood drops of perspiration. The yacht had already slowed
up and was turning. His excellency listened.

"May I ask how much longer you are desirous of my company here?"

"Oh, yes; you may ask."

The boat had begun to quiver again; she was going at full speed once
more. Only now she headed directly for the land Mr. Heatherbloom wished
to see. Five hours to an American port! Then? He glanced toward the door
through which the girl had disappeared. Since that moment he had caught
no sound from her. Had she heard, did she know anything of what was
happening--that the yacht was now turned homeward? He dared not linger
on the thought. The prince was watching him with eyes that seemed to
dilate and contract. A moment's carelessness, the briefest cessation of
watchfulness would be at once seized upon by his excellency, enabling
him to shift the advantage. The young man met that expectant gleam.

"Sorry to seem officious, but if your excellency will sit down once
more? Not here--over there!" Indicating a stationary arm-chair before a
desk in a recess of the room.

The prince obeyed; he had no alternative. The fellow must, of course, be
a madman, the prince reiterated in his own mind unless--

"I told your excellency I had no wish for a long sea voyage." A mocking
voice now made itself heard.

The nobleman started, and looked closer; a mist seemed to fall from
before his gaze. He recognized the fellow now--the man they had run
down. The shock of that terrible experience, the strain of the
disaster, had turned the fellow's brain. That would explain
everything--this extraordinary occurrence. There was nothing to do but
to humor him for the moment, though it was awkward--devilish!--or might
soon be!--if this game should be continued much longer.

Mr. Heatherbloom glided silently toward the hangings near the alcove.
What now?--the prince asked with his eyes. Mr. Heatherbloom unloosened
from a brass holder a silk cord as thick as his thumb.

"If your excellency will permit me--" He stepped to the prince's side.

That person regarded the cord, strong as hemp.

"What do you mean?" burst from him.

"It is quite apparent."

An oath escaped the prince's throat; regardless of consequences, he
sprang to his feet. "Never!"

A desperate determination gleamed in his eyes. This crowning outrage!
He, a nobleman!--to suffer himself to be bound ignominiously by some
low _polisson_ of a raffish mushroom country! It was inconceivable.
"_Jamais!_" he repeated.

"Ah, well!" said Mr. Heatherbloom resignedly. "Nevertheless, I shall
make the attempt to do what I propose, and if you resist--"

"You will assassinate me?" stammered the nobleman.

"We won't discuss how the law might characterize the act. Only," the
words came quickly, "don't waste vain hopes that I won't assassinate
you, if it is necessary. I never waste powder, either--can clip a coin
every time. One of my few accomplishments." Enigmatically. "And"--as the
prince hesitated one breathless second--"I can get you straight, first
shot, sure!"

His excellency believed him. He had heard how in this bizarre America a
single man sometimes "held up" an entire train out west and had his own
sweet way with engineer, conductor and passengers. This madman, on the
slightest provocation now, was evidently prepared to emulate that
extraordinary and undesirable type. What might he not do, or attempt to
do? The nobleman's figure relaxed slightly, his lips twitched. Then he
sank back once more into the strong solid chair at the desk.

"Good," said Mr. Heatherbloom. A cold smile like a faint ripple on a
mountain lake swept his lips. "Now we shall get on faster."

CHAPTER XVIII

THE COUP

Mr. Heatherbloom, with fingers deft as a sailor's, secured the prince.
The single silken band did not suffice; other cords, diverted from the
ornamental to a like practical purpose, were wound around and around his
excellency's legs and arms, holding him so tightly to the chair he could
scarcely move. Having completed this task, Mr. Heatherbloom next, with
vandal hands, whipped from the wall a bit of priceless embroidery, threw
it over the nobleman's head and, in spite of sundry frenzied objections,
effectually gagged him. Then drawing the heavy curtains so that they
almost concealed the bound figure in the dim recess, the young man
stepped once more out into the salon.

How still it suddenly seemed! His glance swept toward the door through
which the young girl had vanished. Why had he heard no sound from her?
Why did she not appear now? She must have caught something of what had
been going on. He went swiftly to the door.

"Miss Dalrymple!"

No answer. He rapped again--louder--then tried the door. It resisted; he
shook it.

"Betty!" Yes; he called her that in the alarm and excitement of the
moment. "It's--it's all right. Open the door."

Again that hush--nothing more. Mr. Heatherbloom pulled rather wildly at
the lock of hair over his brow; then a sudden frenzy seemed to seize
him. He launched himself forward and struck fairly with his
shoulder--once--twice. The door, at length, yielded with a crash. He
rushed in--fell to his knees.

"Betty! Oh, Betty!" For the moment he stared helplessly at the
motionless form on the floor, then, lifting the girl in his arms, he
laid her on a couch. One little white hand swung limp; he seized it with
grimy fingers. It was oddly cold, and a shiver went over him. He felt
for her pulse--her heart--at first caught no answering throb, for his
own heart was beating so wildly. The world seemed to swim--then he
straightened. The filmy dress, not so white now in spots, had fluttered
beneath her throat. He gazed rapturously.

"It'll be all right," he said again. "Darling!"

He could say it now, when she couldn't hear. "Darling! Darling!" he
repeated. It constituted his vocabulary of terms of endearment. He felt
the need of no other. She lay like a lily. He saw nothing anomalous in
certain stains of soot, even on the wonderful face where his had
unconsciously touched it when he had raised her and strained her to him
one mad instant in his arms. In fact, he did not see those stains; his
eyes were closed to such details--and the crimson marks, too, on her
gown! His knuckles were bleeding; he was unaware of it. He was not,
outwardly, a very presentable adorer but he became suddenly a most
daring one. His grimy hand touched the shining hair, half-unbound; he
raised one of the marvelous tresses--his hungry lips swept it
lightly--or did he but breathe a divine fragrance? By some inner process
his spirit seemed to have come that instant very near to hers. He forgot
where he was; time and space were annihilated.

He was brought abruptly back to the living present by a sudden knock at
the door without, which he had locked after entering that way from the
deck. Mr. Heatherbloom listened; the person, whoever he was, on
receiving no response, soon went away. Had they discovered what had
happened to the foreman of the stokers whom Heatherbloom had struck down
with a heavy iron belaying-pin? The man had attacked him with murderous
intent. In defending himself, Heatherbloom believed he had killed the
fellow. The chance blow he had delivered with the formidable weapon had
been one of desperation and despair. It had been more than a question of
his life or the other's. Her fate had been involved in that critical
moment. He had dragged the unconscious figure to the shadows behind a
life-boat. They would not be likely to stumble across the incriminating
evidence while it was dark. Nor was it likely that the foreman's absence
below would cause the men to look for him. The overworked stokers would
be but too pleased to escape, for a spell, their tyrannous master.

Mr. Heatherbloom, standing near the threshold of the dressing-room,
glanced now toward the little French clock without. Over four hours yet
to port! How slowly time went. He turned out all the lights, save one
shaded lamp of low candle-power in the cabin; then he did the same in
the room where the girl was. No one must peer in on him from unexpected
places. He looked up, and saw that the skylights were covered with
canvas. Mr. Heatherbloom remained in the salon; he needed to continue
master of his thoughts. In the dressing-room he had just now forgotten
himself. That would not do; he must concentrate all his faculties, every
energy, to bringing this coup, born on the inspiration of the moment,
to a successful conclusion. Desperate as his plan was, he believed now
he would win out. By the vibrations he knew the boat was still steaming
full speed on her new course. The conditions were all favorable. They
would reach port before dawn; at break of day the health officers would
come aboard. And after that--

The telephone suddenly rang. Should he answer that imperious summons?
Perhaps the man who had just knocked at the door had been one of the
officers, or the captain himself, come in person to speak with his
excellency about the unexpected change in the boat's course, or some
technical question or difficulty that might have arisen in consequence
thereof.

He looked toward the recess; between the curtains he caught sight of the
prince's eyes and in the dim light he fancied they shone with sudden
hope--expectancy. The nobleman must have heard the crashing of the door
to the dressing-room. What he had thought was of no moment. A viperish
fervor replaced that other brief expression in his excellency's gaze.

Once more that metallic call--harsh, loud, as not to be denied! Mr.
Heatherbloom made up his mind; perhaps all depended on his decision; he
would answer. Stepping across the salon, he took down the receivers. The
singing on the wires had been pronounced; he could imitate the prince's
autocratic tones, and the person at the other end would not discover, in
all likelihood, the deception.

"Well?" said Mr. Heatherbloom loudly, in French. "What do you want?
Haven't I given orders not to be--"

His voice died away; he nearly dropped the receivers. A woman answered.
Moreover, the wires did not seem to "sing" so much now. Sonia
Turgeinov's tones were transmitted in all their intrinsic, flute-like
lucidity.

"What has happened, your Excellency?" she asked anxiously.

"Happened?" the young man managed to say. "Nothing."

"Then why has the yacht's course been changed? I can tell by the stars
from my cabin window that we are not headed at all in the same direction
we were going--"

He tried to speak unconcernedly: "Just changed for a short time on
account of some reefs and the currents! Go to sleep," he commanded, "and
leave the problems of navigation to others."

"Sleep? _Mon Dieu_! If I only could--"

Mr. Heatherbloom dared talk no more, so rang off. The prince might have
been capable of such bruskness. Sonia Turgeinov had not seemed to
suspect anything wrong; she had merely been inquisitive, and had taken
it for granted the nobleman was at the other end of the wire. Mr.
Heatherbloom strode restlessly to and fro. Seconds went by--minutes. He
counted the tickings of the clock--suddenly wheeled sharply.

* * * * *

The young girl stood in the doorway--he had heard and now saw her. She
came forward quickly, though uncertainly; in the dim light she looked
like a shadow. He drew in his breath.

"Miss--" he began, then stopped.

Her gaze rested on him, almost indistinguishable on the other side of
the salon.

"What does it mean? Who are you?" She spoke intrepidly enough but he saw
her slender form sway.

Who was he? About to explain in a rush of words, Mr. Heatherbloom
hesitated. To her he had been, of course, but a conspirator of the
Russian woman in the affair. Miss Van Rolsen had deemed him culpable;
the detective had been sure of it. Would Miss Dalrymple think more
leniently of him than mere unprejudiced people, those who knew less of
him than she? His very presence on the yacht, although somewhat
inexplicably complicated in recent occurrences, was _per se_ a primal
damning circumstance. But she spared him the necessity of answering. She
divined now from his blackened features what his position on the yacht
must be. He was only a poor stoker, but--

"You are a brave fellow," cried Betty Dalrymple, "and I'll not forget
it. You interfered--I remember--"

"A brave fellow!" It was well he had not betrayed himself. Let her think
that of him, for the moment. A poignant mockery lent pain to the thrill
of her words.

"You rushed in, struck him. What then?"

"He won't play the bully and scoundrel again for some time!" burst from
Mr. Heatherbloom. His tones were impetuous; once more he seemed to see
what he had seen during those last moments on the deck--when he had been
unable to restrain himself longer--and had yielded to a single
hot-blooded impulse. "The big brute!" he muttered.

She seemed to regard him in slight surprise. "Where is he? What has
become of him?"

"He is safe--"

"You mean you conquered him, beat him--you?" Her voice thrilled.

"You bet I did," said Mr. Heatherbloom with the least evidence of
incoherency. Her words had been verbal champagne to him. "I gave him
the dandiest best licking--" He stopped. Perhaps he realized that his
explanation was beginning to seem slightly tinged with too great
evidence of personal satisfaction if not boastfulness. "You see I had a
gun," he murmured rather apologetically.

"But," said the girl, coming nearer, "I don't understand."

He started to meet that advance, then backed away a little. "I've got
him safe, where he can't move, or bother you any more." Mr. Heatherbloom
glanced over his shoulder; but he did not tell her where he "had him".
"And the yacht's going back to the nearest American port," he couldn't
help adding, impetuously, to reassure her.

"Going back? Impossible!" Wonder, incredulity were in her voice.

"It's true as shooting, Bet--"

She was too bewildered to notice that slight slip of the tongue. "It's a
fact, miss," he added more gruffly.

"But how?" Her tones betrayed reticence in crediting the miracle. Yet
this blackened figure must have prevailed over the prince or the latter
would not have so mysteriously disappeared. "How did it happen?"

"Well, you see I just happened around."

"You, a stoker?"

Stokers, he was reminded by her tone, did not usually "happen around" on
decks of palatial private yachts. He must seek a different, more
definite explanation. He thought he saw a way; he could let her know
part of the truth. "The fact is, I was looking for this boat at the last
port she stopped at. I had cause to think you would be on her. Couldn't
stop the yacht from going to sea, for reasons too numerous to mention,
so I just slipped out and came aboard in a kind of disguise--"

"A disguise? Then you are a detective?"

"I think I may truthfully say I am, but in a sort of private capacity.
When a really important case occurs, it interests me. Now this was an
important case, and--and it interested me." He hardly knew what he was
saying, her eyes were so insistent. Betty Dalrymple had always had the
most disconcerting eyes. "Because, you see, your--your aunt was so
anxious--and"--with a flash of inspiration--"the reward was a big one."

"The reward? Of course." Her voice died away. "You hoped to get it. That
is the reason--"

He let his silence answer in the affirmative; he felt relieved now. She
had not recognized him--yet. In the recess behind the draperies the
chair in which his excellency was bound, creaked. Was he struggling to
release himself? Mr. Heatherbloom had faith in the knots and the silken
cords. The girl turned her head.

"Don't you think it would be better"--he spoke quickly--"for you to
return to your cabin? I'll let you know when I want you and--"

"But if I prefer to stay here? May I not turn on the lights?"

"Not for worlds!" Hastily. "It is necessary they should not see me. If
they did--"

He was obliged to explain a little of the real situation to her; of the
stratagem he had employed. This he did in few words. She listened
eagerly. The mantle of the commonplace, which to her eyes had fallen a
few moments before on his shoulders, became at least partly withdrawn.
She divined the great hazard, the danger he had faced--was facing now.
Detective or not, it had been daringly done. Her voice, with a warm
thrill in it, said as much. Her eyes shone like stars. She came of a
live virile stock, from men and women who had done things themselves.

"If only I, too, had a weapon!" she said, leaning toward him. "In case
they should discover--"

"No, no. It wouldn't do at all."

"Why not?" the warm lips breathed. "I can shoot. Some one once taught
me--"

She stopped short. A chill seemed descending. "You were saying--" he
prompted eagerly.

But she did not answer. The sweep of her hair made a shadowy veil around
her; his mind harked swiftly back. She had always had wondrous hair. It
had taken two big braids to hold it; most girls could get their hair in
one braid. He had been very proud, for her, of those two
braids--once--with their blue or pink ribbons that had popped below the
edge of her skirts. He continued to see blue and pink ribbons now.

Both were for some time silent. At length she stirred--seated herself.
Mr. Heatherbloom mechanically did likewise, but at a distance from her.
He tried not to see her, to become mentally oblivious of her presence,
to concentrate again solely on the matter in hand. A long, long interval
passed. Chug! chug! the engines continued to grind. How far away they
sounded. Another sound, too, at length broke the stillness--a stealthy
footfall on the deck. It sent him at once softly to the window; he gazed
out. She followed.

"Are--are we getting anywhere near port?"

He did not tell her that it was not port he was looking for so soon as
he gazed out searchingly into the night.

"What is it?" She had drawn the curtain a little. Her shoulder touched
him.

Suddenly his arm swept her back. "What do you mean"--he turned on her
sternly--"by drawing that curtain?"

"Was any one there?"

"Any one--" he began almost fiercely; then paused. The figure he had
seen in that flash looked like that of the foreman of the stokers. In
that case, then, the fellow was not dead; he had recovered. Through a
mistaken sense of mercy Mr. Heatherbloom had not slipped the seemingly
lifeless body over the side. Now he, and she, too, were likely to pay
dearly for that clemency. Bitterly he clenched his hands. Had the man
caught a glimpse of him at the window? A flicker of electric light,
without, shone on it.

The girl started again to speak. "Hush!" He drew her back yet farther.
Above, some one had raised the corner of the canvas covering the
skylight. It was too dark, however, for the person, whoever it might be,
to discern very much below. Neither Mr. Heatherbloom nor his companion
now moved. The tenseness and excitement of the moment held them. The
girl breathed quickly; her hand was at his sleeve. Even in that moment
of suspense and peril he was conscious of the nearness of her--the lithe
young form so close!

The creaking of the chair in the recess was again heard. Had his
excellency caught sight of the person above? Was he endeavoring to
attract attention? And could the observer at the skylight discern the
nobleman? It seemed unlikely. The glass above did not appear to extend
quite over the recess. Through a slight opening of the draperies Mr.
Heatherbloom, however, could see his captive and noticed he seemed to be
trying to tip back farther in his chair, to reach out behind with his
bound hands--toward what? The young man abruptly realized, and half
started to his feet--but not in time! The chair went over backward and
came down with a crash, but not before his excellency's fingers had
succeeded in touching an electric button near the desk. A flood of light
filled the place.

It was answered by a shout--a signal for other voices. Fragments of
glass fell around; a figure dropped into the salon; others followed. The
door to the deck yielded to force from without. Mr. Heatherbloom, though
surprised and outnumbered, struggled as best he might; his weapon rang
out; then, as they pressed closer, he defended himself with the butt of
his revolver and his fist.

There could be but one end to the unequal contest. The girl--a helpless
spectator--realized that, though she could with difficulty perceive what
took place, it was all so chaotic. She tried to draw nearer, but bearded
faces intervened; rough hands thrust her back. She would have called out
but the words would not come. It was like an evil dream. As through a
mist she saw one among many who had entered from the deck--a giant in
size. He carried an oaken bar in his hand and now stole sidewise with
murderous intent toward the single figure striving so gallantly.

"No, no!" Betty Dalrymple's voice came back to her suddenly; she
exclaimed wildly, incoherently.

But the foreman of the stokers raised the bar, waited. He found his
opportunity; his arm descended.

CHAPTER XIX

AND THEN--

Mr. Heatherbloom regained consciousness, or semi-consciousness, in an
ill-smelling place. His first impulse was to raise his hands to his
aching head, but he could not do this on account of two iron bands that
held his wrists to a stanchion. His legs, too, he next became vaguely
aware, were fastened by a similar contrivance to the deck. He closed his
eyes, and leaned back; the throbbings seemed to beat on his brain like
the angry surf, smiting harder and harder until nature at length came to
his relief and oblivion once more claimed him.

How long it was before he again opened his eyes he could not tell. The
shooting throes were still there but he could endure them now and even
think in an incoherent fashion. He gazed around. The light grudgingly
admitted by a small port-hole revealed a bare prison-like cell.
Realization of what it all meant, his being there, swept over him, and,
in a semi-delirious frenzy, he tugged at his fastenings. He did not
succeed in releasing himself; he only increased the hurtling waves of
pain in his head. What did she think of her valiant rescuer now, he who
had raised her hopes so high but to dash them utterly?

Some one, some time later, brought him water and gave him bread,
releasing his wrists while he ate and fastening them again when he had
finished. The hours that seemed days passed. During that time he half
thought he had another visitor but was not sure. The delirium had
returned; he strove to think lucidly, but knew himself very
light-headed. He imagined Sonia Turgeinov came to him, that she looked
down on him.

"_Mon Dieu_! It is my canine keeper; the man with the dogs. What a lame
and impotent conclusion for one so clever! I looked for something better
from you, my intrepid friend, who dared to come aboard in that
thrilling manner--who managed to follow me, through what arts, I do not
know. How are the mighty fallen!"

Her tone was low, mocking. He disdained to reply.

"Really, I am disappointed, after my not having betrayed who you were to
the prince."

"Why didn't you?" he said.

She laughed. "Perhaps because I am an artist, and it seemed inartistic
to intervene--to interrupt the action at an inopportune moment--to
stultify what promised to be an unusually involved complication. When
first I saw and recognized you on the _Nevski_, it was like one of those
divine surprises of the master dramatist, M. Sardou. Really, I was
indebted for the thrill of it. Besides, had I spoken, the prince might
have tossed you overboard; he is quite capable of doing so. That, too,
would have been inartistic, would have turned a comedy of love into rank
melodrama."

Rank nonsense! Of course such a conversation could not be real. But he
cried out in the dream: "What matter if his excellency had tossed me
overboard? What good am I here?"

"To her, you mean?"

"To her, of course." Bitterly.

The vision's eyes were very bright; her plastic, rather mature form bent
nearer. He felt a cool hand at the bandage, readjusting it about his
head. That, naturally, could not be. She who had betrayed Betty
Dalrymple to the prince would not be sedulous about Mr. Heatherbloom's
injury.

"Foolish boy!" she breathed. Incongruous solicitude! "Who are you? No
common dog-tender--of that I am sure. What have you been?"

"What--" Wildly.

"There! there!" said half-soothingly that immaterial, now maternal
visitant. "Never mind."

"How is she? Where is she?" he demanded, incoherently.

"She is well, and is going to be, very soon now, the prince's bride."

"Never."

"Don't let his excellency hear you say so in that tone. He thinks you
only a detective, not an ardent, though secret wooer yourself. The
Strogareffs brook no rivals," she laughed, "and he is already like a
madman. I should tremble for your life if he dreamed--"

"Help me to help her--" he said. "It will be more than worth your while.
You did this for--"

She shook her head. "I have descended very low, indeed, but not so low
as that. Like the bravos of old"--was it she who spoke bitterly
now?--"Sonia Turgeinov is, at least, true to him who has given her the
little _douceur_. No, no; do not look to me, my young and Quixotic
friend. You have only yourself to depend upon--"

"Myself!" He felt the sharp iron cut his flesh. That seemed
indubitable--no mere fantasy of pain but pain itself.

"Let well enough alone," she advised. "The prince will probably put you
ashore somewhere--I'll beg him to do that. He'll be better natured
after--after the happy event," she laughed. "Perhaps, he'll even slip a
little purse into your pocket though you did hurt a few of his men. Not
that he cares much for them--mere serfs. You could find a little
consolation, eh? With a bottle, perhaps. Besides, I have heard these
island girls have bright eyes." He could not speak. "Are you adamant,
save for one?" she mocked. "Content yourself with what must be. It is a
good match for her. The little fool might scour the world for a better
one. As for you--your crazy infatuation--what have you to offer? _Tres
drole!_ Do dog-tenders mate with such as she? No; destiny says to her,
be a grand lady at the court of Petersburg. I am doing her a great
favor. Many American families would pay me well, I tell you--"

She paused. "You will smile at it all, some day, my friend. You played
and lost. At least, it was daringly done. You deceived even me over the
telephone. 'Go to sleep,' forsooth! You commanded in a right princely
tone. And I obeyed."

An instant her hand lingered once more near the bandage. It was
ridiculous, that tentative, almost sympathetic touch. Then, she--a
figment of disordered imagination--receded; there was no doubt about his
light-headedness now.

They sent again bread and water, and, after what seemed an intolerable
interval, he found himself eating with zest; he was exceedingly hungry.
He also began to feel mentally normal, although his thoughts were the
reverse of agreeable. Days had, no doubt, gone by. He chafed at this
enforced inaction, but sometimes through sheer weariness fell into a
semblance of natural sleep despite the sitting posture he was obliged to
maintain. On one such occasion he was abruptly awakened by a light
thrown suddenly on his face. He would have started to his feet but the
fetters restrained him.

It was night; a lantern, held by a hand that shook slightly, revealed a
face he did not know. He felt assured, however, of his mental lucidity
at the moment. The new-comer, though a stranger, was undoubtedly flesh
and blood.

"What do you want?" said the prisoner.

"A word with you, Monsieur." The speaker had a smooth face and dark
soulful eyes. His manner was both furtive and constrained. He looked
around as if uncomfortable at finding himself in that place.

"Well, I guess you can have it. I can't get away," muttered the manacled
man.

"Miss Dalrymple sent me."

Mr. Heatherbloom's interest was manifest; he strove to suppress outward
signs of it. "What--what for?"

"She wanted to make sure you were not dead."

The prisoner did not answer; his emotion was too great at the moment to
permit his doing so. She was in trouble, yet she considered the poor
detective. That was like her--straight as a string--true blue--

The visitor started to go. "Hold on!" said Mr. Heatherbloom, whose ideas
were surging fast. This youth had managed to come here at her
instigation. Had she made a friend of him, an ally? He did not appear an
heroic one, but he was, no doubt, the best that had offered. Betty
Dalrymple was not one to sit idly; she would seek ways and means. She
was clever, knew how to use those violet eyes. (Did not Mr. Heatherbloom
himself remember?) Who was he--this nocturnal caller? Not an officer--he
was too young. Cabin-boy, perhaps? More likely the operator. Mr.
Heatherbloom had noticed that the yacht was provided with the wireless
outfit.

"How long have I been here?" he now asked abruptly.

"It is three days since monsieur was knocked on the head."

Mr. Heatherbloom looked down. "Three days? Well, it cost me a fortune,"
he sighed, remembering the role of detective that had been thrust upon
him. "I could have stood for the sore head."

The other had his foot at the threshold but he lingered. "How much of a
fortune? What was the reward?" He strove to speak carelessly but there
was a trace of eagerness in his tones.

"You mean what _is_ it?" returned Mr. Heatherbloom, and named an amount
large enough to make the soulful eyes open. "And to think," watchfully,
"one little message to the shore might procure for the sender such a
sum!"

"Monsieur!" Indignantly. "You think that I would--"

"Then you _are_ the wireless operator?"

"I was." Francois spoke more calmly. "His excellency has had the
apparatus destroyed. He will take no chances of other spies or
detectives being aboard who might understand its use."

The prisoner hardly heard the last words; for the moment he was
concerned only with his disappointment. A sudden hope had died almost as
soon as it had been born. "Too bad!" he murmured. Then--"How did you get
here?"

"The third officer has the keys and our cabins are adjoining. I seized
an opportune moment, slipped in, and took a wax impression of what I
wanted. Then with an old key and a file--Monsieur is a great detective,
perhaps, but I, too," with Gaston boastfulness, "can aspire to a little
cleverness."

"A great deal," said Mr. Heatherbloom, the while his brain worked
rapidly. Betty Dalrymple must have paid the youth well for serving her
thus far. Thrift, as well as sentiment, seemed to shine from Francois'
eloquent dark eyes. Could he be induced to espouse her cause yet
further?

"Monsieur must not think I would prove disloyal to his excellency, my
employer," spoke up the youth as if reading what had been passing
through the other's mind. "There could be no harm in a mere inquiry as
to monsieur's state of health."

"None at all," assented the prisoner quickly. "Though"--a sudden
inspiration came to Mr. Heatherbloom--"contingencies may arise when one
can best serve those who employ him by secretly opposing them."

"I don't understand, Monsieur," said Francois cautiously.

"The prince is a madman. By incurring the enmity of his Imperial Master
he would rush on to his own destruction. Suppose by this misalliance,
the very map of Europe itself were destined to be changed?"

The words sounded portentous, and Francois stared. He had imagination.
The beautiful American girl had told him that this man before him was a
great and daring detective. He spoke now even as an emissary of the czar
himself. The prince was a high lord, close to the throne. These were
deep waters. The youth looked troubled; Mr. Heatherbloom allowed the
thought he had inspired to sink in.

"What is our first port?" his voice, more authoritative, now demanded.

Francois mentioned an island.

"When do we get there?"

"We are near it to-night but on account of the rocks and reefs, I heard
the captain say we would slow down, so as not to enter the harbor until
daybreak."

Daybreak! And then? Mr. Heatherbloom closed his eyes; when he again
opened them they revealed none of the poignant emotion that had swept
over him. "What time is it now?"

"About ten."

"My jailer--the third officer, you say--visits this cell once every
night. Do you know what time he comes?"

"I shouldn't be here, Monsieur, at this moment, if I didn't know that.
He comes in an hour, after his watch is over, with the bread and
water--monsieur's frugal fare. And now"--those apprehensions,
momentarily dulled by wonderment seemed returning to Francois--"I will
bid monsieur--"

"Stay! One moment!" Mr. Heatherbloom's accents were feverish,
commanding. "You must--in the name of the czar!--for the prince's
sake!--for hers--for--for the reward--"

"Monsieur!" Again that flicker of indignation.

Mr. Heatherbloom swept it aside. "She has asked you to help her escape?"
he demanded swiftly.

Francois did not exactly deny. There were no listeners here. "It would
be impossible for her to escape," he answered rather sullenly.

"Then she did broach a plan--one you refused to accede to. What was it?"

"Mere madness!" Scoffingly. "Mademoiselle may be generous, and _mon
Dieu_! very persuasive, but she doesn't get me to--"

"What _was_ her proposal? Answer." Sternly. "You can't incriminate
yourself here."

Francois knew that. The cell was remote. There could be no harm in
letting the talk drift a little further. He replied, briefly outlining
the plan.

"Excellent!" observed Mr. Heatherbloom.

"Mere madness!" reiterated Francois.

"Not at all. But if it were, some people would, under the
circumstances," with subtle accent, "gladly undertake it--just as you
will!" he added.

"Oh, will I?" Ironically.

"Yes, when you hear all I have to say. In the first place, I relinquish
all claim to the reward. Sufficient for me--" And Mr. Heatherbloom
mumbled something about the czar.

"Bah! That sounds very well, only there wouldn't be any reward,"
retorted Francois. "The prince would only capture us again and then--"
He shrugged. "I know his temper and have no desire for the longer voyage
with old man Charon--"

"Wait!" More aggressively. "I have not done. No one will suspect that
you have been here to-nigh't?" he asked.

"Does monsieur think I am a fool? No, no! And now my little errand for
mademoiselle being finished--"

"You can do as Miss Dalrymple wishes, achieve an embarrassment of
riches, and run no risk whatever yourself."

"Indeed?" Starting slightly.

"At least, no appreciable one." Mr. Heatherbloom explained his plan
quickly. Francois listened, at first with open skepticism, then with
growing interest.

"_Mon Dieu_! If it were possible!" he muttered. South-of-France
imagination had again been appealed to. "But no--"

"Remember all the reward will be for you"--swiftly--"sufficient to buy
vineyards and settle down for a life of peace and plenty--" Francois'
eyes wavered; any Frenchman would have found the picture enticing.
Already the beautiful American girl had, as Mr. Heatherbloom suspected,
surreptitiously thrust several valuable jewels upon the youth as a
reward for this preliminary service. Having experienced a foretaste of
riches, Francois perhaps secretly longed for more of the glittering gems
and for some of those American dollars which sounded five times as large
in francs. Besides, this man, the great detective, or emissary, inspired
confidence; his tones were vibrant, compelling.

"And for you, Monsieur?--the risk for you--" Francois faltered.

"Never mind about me. You consent?"

The other swallowed, muttered a monosyllable in a low tone.

"Then--" Heatherbloom murmured a few instructions. "Miss Dalrymple is
not to know."

"I understand," said Francois quickly. And going out stealthily, he
closed and locked the door behind him.

CHAPTER XX

INTO THE INFINITE

The midnight hour drew near, and, above deck, tranquillity reigned. It
was, however, the comparative quiet that follows a storm. A threatening
day had culminated in a fierce tropical downpour--a cloud-burst--when
the very heavens had seemed to open. The _Nevski_, steaming forward at
half speed, had come almost to a stop; struck by the masses of water,
she had fairly staggered beneath the impact. Now she lay motionless,
while every shroud and line dripped; the darkness had become inky. Only
the light from cabin windows which lay on the wet deck like shafts of
silver relieved that Cimmerian effect. The sea moaned from the lashing
it had received--a faint undertone, however, that became suddenly
drowned by loud and harsh clangor, the hammering on metal somewhere
below. Possibly something had gone wrong with a hatch or iron
compartment door inadvertently left open, or one of the ventilators may
have got jammed and needed adjusting. The captain, as he hastened down a
companionway, muttered angrily beneath his breath about water in the
stoke room. The decks, in the vicinity of the cabins, seemed now
deserted, when from the shadows, a figure that had merged in the general
gloom, stepped out and passed swiftly through one of the trails of
light. Gliding stealthily toward the stern, this person drew near the
rail, and, peering cautiously over, looked down on one of the small
boats swung out in readiness for the landing party at dawn.

"Mademoiselle," he breathed low.

"Is that you, Francois?" came up softly from the boat.

He murmured something. "Is all in readiness?"

"Quite! Make haste."

The person above, about to swing himself over the rail, paused; a cabin
door, near by, had been thrown open and a stream of light shot near him.
Some one came out; moreover, she--for the some one was a woman--did not
close the door. The youth crouched back, trying to draw himself from
sight but the woman saw him, and coming quickly forward spoke. She
thought him, no doubt, one of the sailors. He did not answer, perhaps
was too frightened to do so, and his silence caused her to draw nearer.
More sharply she started to address him in her own native Russian but
the words abruptly ceased; a sudden exclamation fell from her lips. He,
as if made desperate by what the woman, now at the rail, saw or divined,
seemed imbued with extraordinary strength. The success or failure of the
enterprise hung on how he met this unexpected emergency. Heroic, if
needs be, brutal measures were demanded. Her outcry was stifled but
Sonia Turgeinov was strong and resisted like a tigress. Perhaps she
thought he meant to kill her, and in an excess of fear she managed to
call out once. Fortunately for the youth, the hammering below
continued, but whether she had made herself heard or not was uncertain.
Confronted by a dire possibility, he exerted himself to the utmost to
still that warning voice. In frenzied haste he seized the heavy scarf
she had thrown around her shoulders upon leaving the cabin and wound it
about her face and head. The sinuous body seemed to grow limp in his
arms. His was not a pleasant task but a necessary one. This woman had
delivered the girl to the prince in the first place; would now attempt
to frustrate her escape. Any moment some one else might come on deck and
discover them.

"Quick! Why don't you come?" Betty Dalrymple's anxious voice ascended
from the darkness.

The youth knew well that no time must be lost, but what to do? He could
not leave the woman. She might be only feigning unconsciousness. And
anyway they would soon find her and learn the truth. That would mean
their quick recapture. Already he thought he heard a footstep descending
from the bridge--approaching--With extraordinary strength for one of
Francois' slender build, he swung the figure of the woman over the side,
dropped her into the boat and followed himself. A breathless moment of
suspense ensued; he listened. The approaching footsteps came on; then
paused, and turned the other way. The youth waited no longer. The little
boat at the side was lowered softly; it touched the water and floated
away from the _Nevski_ like a leaf. Then the darkness swallowed it.

"How far are we from the yacht now, Francois?"

"Only a few miles, Mademoiselle."

"Do you think we'll be far enough away at daybreak so they can't see
us?"

"Have no fear, Mademoiselle." The voice of Francois in the stern,
thrilled. "There's a fair sailing wind."

"Isn't it strange"--Betty Dalrymple, speaking half to herself, regarded
the motionless form in the bottom of the boat--"that she, of all
persons, and I, should be thus thrust together, in such a tiny craft,
on such an enormous sea?"

"I really couldn't help it, Mademoiselle"--apologetically--"bringing her
with us. There was no alternative."

"Oh, I'm not criticizing you, who did so splendidly." The girl's eyes
again fell. "She is unconscious a long time, Francois."

The youth's reply was lost amid the sound of the waters. Only the sea
talked now, wildly, moodily; flying feathers of foam flecked the night.
The boat took the waves laboriously and came down with shrill seething.
She seemed ludicrously minute amid that vast unrest. The youth steered
steadily; to Betty Dalrymple he seemed just going on anyhow, dashing
toward a black blanket with nothing beyond. It was all very wonderful
and awe-inspiring as well as somewhat fearsome. The waves had a cruel
sound if one listened to them closely. A question floating in her mind
found, after a long time, hesitating but audible expression:

"Do you think there's any doubt about our being able to make one of the
islands, Francois?"

"None whatever!" came back the confident, almost eager reply. "Not the
slightest doubt in the world, Mademoiselle. The islands are very near
and we can't help seeing one of them at daybreak."

"Daybreak?" she said. "I wish it were here now."

Swish! swish! went the sea with more menacing sound. For the moment
Francois steered wildly, and the boat careened; he brought her up
sharply. The girl spoke no more. Perhaps the motion of the little craft
gradually became more soothing as she accustomed herself to it, for,
before long, her head drooped. It was dry in the bow; a blanket
protected her from the wind, and, weary with the events of the last few
days, she seemed to rest as securely on this wave-rocked couch as a
child in its cradle. The youth, uncertain whether she slept or not,
forbore to disturb her. Hours went by.

As the night wore on a few stars came out in a discouraged kind of way.
Heretofore he had been steering by the wind; now, that scanty
peripatetic band, adrift on celestial highways, assisted him in keeping
his course. When one sleepy-eyed planet went in, another, not far away
(from the human scope of survey) came out, and Francois, with the
perspicacity of a follower of the sea, seemed to have learned how to
gage direction by a visual game of hide-and-seek with the pin-points of
infinitude. Between watching the stars, the sea and the sail, he found
absorbing occupation for mind and muscle. Sometimes, in the water's
depressions, a lull would catch them, then when the wind boomed again
over the tops of the crests, slapping fiercely the canvas, a brief
period of hazard had to be met. The boat, like a delicate live creature,
needed a fine as well as a firm hand.

His faculties thus concentrated, Francois had remained oblivious to the
dark form in the center of the boat, although long ago Sonia Turgeinov
had first moved and looked up. If she made any sound, he whose glance
passed steadily over her had not heard it. She raised herself slightly;
sat a long time motionless, an arm thrown over a seat, her eyes
alternating in direction, from the seas near the downward gunwale, to
the almost indistinguishable figure of him in the stern, the while her
fingers played with a scarf--the one that had been wound around her
head. Once she leaned back, her cheek against the sharp thwart, her gaze
heavenward. She remained thus a long while, with body motionless, though
her fingers continued to toy with the bit of heavy silk, as if keeping
pace with some mercurial rush of thoughts.

A wastrel, she had been in many strange places, but never before had she
found herself in a situation so extraordinary. To her startled outlook,
the boat might well have seemed a chip tossed on the mad foam of chaos.
This figure, almost indistinguishable, yet so steadfastly present at the
stern of the little craft, appeared grim and ghostlike. But that he was
no ghost--His grip had been real; certainly that. He had been, too,
perforce, a master of action. She leaned her head on her elbow.
Strangely, she felt no resentment.

The tired stars, as by a community of interest and common
understanding, slowly faded altogether. The woman bent her glance
bow-ward. The day--what would it reveal? She understood a good deal, yet
much still puzzled her. As through a dream, she had seemed to hear the
name, "Francois"--to listen to a crystalline voice, fresh as the
tinkling bells in some temple at the dawn. The darkness of the sky fused
into a murky gray, and as that somber tone began, in turn, to be
replaced by a lighter neutral tint, she made out dimly the figure of the
girl. As by a species of fascination, she continued to look at her while
the morn unfolded slowly. From behind a dark promontory of vapor,
Aurora's warm hand now tossed out a few careless ribbons. They lightened
the chilly-looking sea; they touched a golden tress--just one, that
stole out from under the gray blanket. The girl's face could not be
seen; the heavy covering concealed the lines of the lithe young form.

As she continued to sleep--undisturbed by the first manifestations of
the dawn--the woman's glance swept backward to him at the helm. The
shafts of light showed now his face, worn and set, yet strangely
transfigured. He did not seem to notice her; beneath heavy lids his
quick glances shot this way and that to where wisps of mist on the
surface of the sea partly obscured the outlook. Sonia Turgeinov divined
his purpose; he was looking for the _Nevski_. But although he continued
to search in the direction of the yacht, he did not catch sight of her.
Only the winding and twining diaphanous veils played where he feared she
might have been visible. An expression of great satisfaction passed over
his features.

Then he swayed from sheer weariness; he could have dropped gladly to the
bottom of the boat. Brain as well as sinew has its limitations and the
night had been long and trying. He had done work that called for
tenseness and mental concentration every moment. He had outlasted divers
and many periods when catastrophe might have overwhelmed them, and now
that the blackness which had shrouded a thousand unseen risks and perils
had been swept aside, an almost overpowering reaction claimed him. This
natural lassitude became the more marked after he had scanned the
horizon in vain for the prince's pleasure-yacht.

His task, however, was far from over, and he straightened. To Sonia
Turgeinov, his gaze and his expression were almost somnambulistic. He
continued steering, guiding their destinies as by force of habit.
Luckily the breeze had waned and the boat danced more gaily than
dangerously. It threw little rainbows of spray in the air; he blinked at
them, his eyes half closed. In the bow the old dun-colored blanket
stirred but he did not see it. A glorious sun swept up, and began to lap
thirstily the wavering mists from the surface of the sea.

Sonia Turgeinov spoke now softly to the steersman. What she said he did
not know; his lack-luster gaze met hers. All dislike and disapproval
seemed to have vanished from it; he saw her only as one sees a face in a
daguerreotype of long ago, or looks at features limned by a soulless
etcher.

"Do you see it?" he asked.

"What?"

"Trees? Aren't those trees?"

"I see nothing."

"You do. You must. They are there." He spoke almost roughly, as if she
irritated him.

"Oh, yes. I think I do see something," she said, and started. "Like a
speck?--a film?--a bird's wing, perhaps?"

In the bow the blanket again stirred. Then, as from the dull chrysalis
emerge brightness and beauty, so from those dun folds sprang into the
morning light a red-lipped, lovely vision.

"Trees," repeated the steersman to Sonia Turgeinov. "I am positive--" he
went on, but lost interest in his own words. Fatigue seemed to fall from
him in an instant; he stared.

From beneath her golden hair Betty Dalrymple's eyes flashed full upon
him.

"You!" she said.

Mr. Heatherbloom appeared to relapse; his expression--that smile--vague,
indefinite--again partook of the somnambulistic.

CHAPTER XXI

AN ANOMALOUS SITUATION

The most unexpected and extraordinary thing in the world had happened,
yet Betty Dalrymple asked no questions. Had she done so, it is probable
that Mr. Heatherbloom would have been physically unequal to the
labyrinthine explanation the occasion demanded. For a brief spell the
girl had continued to regard him and she had seemed about to speak
further. Then the blue light of her gaze had slowly turned and her lips
remained mute. He was glad of this; of course he would later have to
tell something, but sufficient unto that unlucky hour were the
perplexities thereof. Sonia Turgeinov had been surprised, too, but it
was Betty Dalrymple's surprise that had most awakened her wonder. "Why,
didn't you know it was he?" the dark eyes seemed to say to the young
girl. "Who else, on earth, did you think it was?" The mystery for her,
as well as for Betty Dalrymple, deepened. Only for Mr. Heatherbloom
there existed no mystery; it was all now clear as day. He had done what
he had set out to do. She would soon be enabled to find her way back to
civilization. His present concern lay with the occupation of the moment.

The tree _was_ a tree; this was the most momentous immediate
consideration; a few more miles had established that fact with
positiveness. But distances on the water are long, and they three would
have to journey together on the sea yet a while. He bethought him of his
duties, as host; these--his two passengers-were in his care.

"You should find biscuits in a basket and water in a cask," he said,
speaking to both of them, and, at the same time, to immeasurable
distance. "If you don't mind looking--I can't very well."

At that, a nervous laugh welled from Sonia Turgeinov's throat; she had
to give way. Possibly the absurd thought seized her that all the
tragedies and comedies might be simmered down to one thing. Were there
biscuits in the basket? But Betty Dalrymple did not laugh; her eyes were
like stars on a wintry night; her face was white as paper. It was turned
now from the steersman--ahead. She saw the blur before them become a
definite line of green; later she made out details, the large heads of
small trees. The former looked like big overflowing cabbages; the
trunks, beneath, sprawled this way and that, as the vagaries of the wind
had directed their growth. In front of them and the vernal strip, a
white line slowly resolved itself into moving foam. She--they all could
hear it now, faintly--they were very near; no thunderous anthem it
pealed forth; its voice seethed in soft cadences.

Mr. Heatherbloom, with sheet taut, ran his craft toward the sands but
the boat grounded some little distance from the shore. It was useless to
attempt to go farther so he let his sail out, got up and stepped
overboard. The water was rather more than knee deep; he tugged at the
boat and attempted to draw her up farther without much success. She was
too heavy, and desisting from his efforts, he approached Miss Dalrymple.
The young girl shrank back slightly, but seeming not to notice that
first instinctive movement, he reached over and lifted her out. It was
done in a businesslike manner and with no more outward concern than a
Kikuji porter might have displayed in meeting the exigencies of a like
situation. The bubbles seethed around Mr. Heatherbloom's legs; unmindful
of them or the shifting sands beneath foot, he strode straight as might
be for the shore. His burden was not a heavy one but it seemed very
still and unyielding. He released her at the earliest possible
opportunity and in the same matter-of-fact way (still that of a human
ferry on the banks of the turbulent Chania) he returned for his other
passenger. Around Sonia Turgeinov's rich lips a mocking smile seemed to
play; she arose at once.

"How charming! How very gallant!" she murmured. "First, you nearly
strangle one, and then--"

Her soft arm stole about his neck, and her warm breath swept his cheek
as, stony-faced, he trudged along. This time his burden was heavier,
although there were men who would not have minded that under the
circumstances. The dark eyes, full of sparkles and enigmas, turned upon
his frosty ones. But she did not see very far into that so-called medium
of the soul; she received only an impression one gets in looking at a
wall.

He put her down--gently. Whereupon, her dark brows lifted ironically.
He, gentle--to her? Did she dream? She felt again that fierce clasp of
the night before, and mentally told herself she would like to label him
an artistic study in contrasts. Really the adventure began to be "worth
while"; she felt almost reconciled to it. He had carried her off as the
rough, old-fashioned pirates bear away feminine prizes from a town they
have looted. From dog-tender to bucaneer--he appealed to her
imagination. She experienced a childlike desire to sit down where he had
left her and play with the shells. But instead she looked toward Betty
Dalrymple. That young girl, however, did not return her regard, though
the golden head, a few moments before, had lifted once, with a swift,
bird-like motion toward Sonia Turgeinov, en route beachward. Now the
girl's features were steadfastly bent away; whatever gladness she may
have felt in thus, after many vicissitudes, reaching land safely, she
kept to herself.

Mr. Heatherbloom resumed the task of porter; his next burden--the
water-cask--was the heaviest of all. He struggled with it and once
nearly went down, so tired was he, but he got it ashore, and the basket
of biscuits, too, and some other things. The boat, floating more
lightly, he now pulled to the strand; then he took out the spar and the
sail. This done, he gazed around; the place was deserted by man, though
of birds and crabs and other crawling objects there were a-plenty. Mr.
Heatherbloom stood with knitted brow; it was a time for contemplation,
visual and mental. For the latter he did not feel very fit as he strove
to think what was best to do next. The other two--he still forced
himself to keep to the purely impersonal aspect of the case--were his
charges. Being women, they were mutually and equally (the mockery of
it!) dependent on him. He was responsible for their welfare and
well-being. In the sail-boat he had been captain; ashore, he became
commandant, an answerable factor. He began to plan.

What kind of place had they come to?--was it big or small?--inhabited,
or deserted? All this would have to be ascertained, later. Meanwhile,
temporary headquarters were needed; he would erect a tent. The spar and
boom served for the ridge and front poles, the sail for the canvas
covering, the sheet and halyards for the restraining lines. Sonia
Turgeinov again watched him; her interest was now of that vague kind she
had sometimes experienced when the manager appeared on a darkened stage,
with a fresh crackling manuscript. Then she had lolled back and listened
to the first reading. She would have lolled back now--for the air was
soporific--but, instead, she started suddenly. The old wound on Mr.
Heatherbloom's head, heretofore concealed by the cap Francois had
procured for him, had reopened as he exerted himself; he raised his hand
quickly and seemed a little at a loss. She stepped to him at once.

"The scarf, Monsieur?"

"Thank you." He took it absently.

"It serves divers purposes," she murmured. And Mr. Heatherbloom,
remembering the more violent employment he had found for it the night
before, flushed slightly.

She added delicate emphasis to her remark by assisting him. With her own
fingers she tied a knot, and rather painstakingly spread out the ends.
He endured grimly. Miss Dalrymple appeared not to have observed the
episode but, of course, it had in reality been all quite fully revealed
to her. It was in keeping with certain circumstances of the past that
the Russian woman should not be unmindful of him, her confrere in the
conspiracy. That much was patent; but other happenings were not so
easily reconciled. What had taken place on the deck of the _Nevski_ in
those breathless last few moments as they were escaping, was in ill
conformity with those amicable relations which should have existed
between the two. This man's presence in the boat, in the place of
Francois, could be explained by no logical process with the premises she
had at her command.

The bandage possessed a subtly weird and bizarre interest for the young
girl. He had been injured. How? For what reason? Betty Dalrymple's mind
swept, seemingly without very definite cause, to another scene, one of
violence. Again she heard the crashing of glass and saw forms leaping
into the cabin. Her thoughts reverted, on the instant, to the unknown
helper she had been obliged to leave behind. Somehow, real as he had
been, he seemed at this moment strangely apart, something in the
abstract. Then all illusive speculations merged abruptly into a
realization that needed no demonstration. Sonia Turgeinov possessed a
certain outre attractiveness the young girl had never noted before. The
violet eyes, shining through the long shading lashes, rested a moment on
her; then passed steadily beyond.

"I'm off for a look around." Mr. Heatherbloom, having transferred their
meager possessions to the tent, now addressed Miss Dalrymple, or Sonia
Turgeinov, or an indefinite space between them. "Better stay right here
while I'm gone." His tones had a firm accent. "Sorry there are only
biscuits for breakfast, but perhaps there'll be better fare before long.
If you should move around"--his eye lingered authoritatively on Betty
Dalrymple--"keep to the beach."

"How very solicitous!" laughed Sonia Turgeinov as the young man strode
off. "That was intended especially for you, Mademoiselle. As for me, it
does not matter." With a shrug. "I might stroll into the wood, be
devoured by wild beasts, and who would care?"

Betty Dalrymple did not answer.

"A truce, Mademoiselle!" said the other in the same gay tone. "I know
very well what you think of me. You told me very clearly on the
_Nevski_, and before that, on shore. In this instance, however, since it
is through no fault or choice of mine that we are thrown thus closely
together, would it not be well to make the best of the situation?"

"There seems, indeed, no choice in the matter," answered the young girl
coldly.

"None, unless like those in the admirable play, we elect to pitch our
respective camps at different parts of the beach. But that would be
absurd, wouldn't it? Besides, I have my punishment--no light one for
Sonia Turgeinov who herself has been accustomed to a little adulation in
the past. I am _de trop_."

"_De trop_?" There was a faint uplifting of the brow. "_You_ should not
be altogether that."

"You mean I should be very friendly with him, my colleague and
confidant, _n'est ce pas_?" Sonia's dark eyes swept swiftly the proud
lovely face. "In truth he proved an able assistant." Her voice was a
little mocking. "What if I should tell you it was he who planned it all
--devised the ways and means?" A statue could, not have been more
immovable than Betty Dalrymple. "Or," suddenly, "what if I should say
quite--_au contraire_." The girl stirred. Sonia Turgeinov seemed to
ruminate. "Should I be so forgiving--after last night?" she murmured.
"It would be inconsistent, wouldn't it?--or angelic? And I am no angel."

The girl's lips started to form a question but she did not speak. Afar,
Mr. Heatherbloom's figure could be seen, almost at the vanishing point.
He was toiling up an incline. Then the green foliage swallowed him.
Sonia Turgeinov smiled at vacancy. "Though I do owe him a little," she
went on, half meditative. "He _was_ kind to me in the park. He was sorry
for me. Think of it, and without admiring me. Other men have professed
for poor Sonia Turgeinov a little interest or solicitude at divers times
and places, but it has always been accompanied with something else. Is
that beyond the understanding of your pure soul, nourished in a
hothouse, Mademoiselle?" There was a sudden hard ring of rebellion in
her tones. "Am I handsome? Your eyes said it not long ago. _Ma foi_!"
Her voice becoming light again. "It was Parsifal himself who talked with
me in the park--that place for rendezvous and romances." Her thoughts
leaped over time and space. "The first light of the sun revealed to you
this day the last face you expected to see. It was as if a bit of
miracle, or a little diablerie had happened. I, too, was in a haze, not
so great--though on the deck the night before I little expected to
encounter one I had last seen in chains, a prisoner--"

"A prisoner--in chains--he--" Betty Dalrymple stared.

"You did not know? What on earth did you expect? That the prince would
give him the _suite de luxe_ after the beating his excellency
received--"

"The beating?" half-stammered the girl. "Then the man in the salon who
claimed to be a detective was--"

"What? He claimed that?" laughed Sonia Turgeinov. "_Tres drole!"_

But Betty Dalrymple did not laugh. Her eyes, bent seaward, saw nothing
now of the leaping waves; her face was fixed as a cameo's. Only her hair
stirred, wind-tossed, all in motion like her thoughts. And regarding
her, Sonia Turgeinov's eyes began to harden a little. Did the woman
regret for the moment what she had said, divining again some play within
a play? Yet what could there be in common between this beautiful heiress
and the _gardeurde chiens_? No! it was absurd to conceive anything of
the kind. Nevertheless Sonia Turgeinov unaccountably began to experience
a vague hostility for the young girl; this she might partly attribute to
the great gaps of convention separating them. Her own life, in confused
pictures, surged panorama-like before her mental vision: The garret
beginning; the cold and hunger hardships; the beatings, when a child;
the girl problems--so hard; the woman's--Faugh! what a life! Would that
the flame of the artist had burned more brightly or not at all. She
tried to imagine what she would have been, if she, too, had been born to
a golden cradle.

A great ennui swept over her. How old she felt on a sudden! And how
homesick, too. Yes; that was it--homesickness. She could have stretched
out her arms toward her much beloved and, sometimes, a little hated,
Russia. The bright domes of her native city seemed to shine now in her
eyes. She walked in spirit the stony pavement of the Kremlin. Cruelty,
intolerance, suffering--all these reigned in the city of extremes, but
she would have kissed even the cold marble at the feet of dead tyrants,
the way the people did, if she could have stood at that moment in one of
the old, old sacred places. Her brief flight into the new world had led
her to no pots of gold at rainbow end. The little honorarium from his
excellency for her part in this adventure, she did not want now. She
regretted that she had ever embarked upon it. What penalty might she not
have to pay yet? The law, with dragon fingers would reach out--no doubt
was reaching out now--to grip her. Well, let it.

A crisp, matter-of-fact voice--concealing any agitation the speaker may
have felt--broke in upon these varied reflections. Mr. Heatherbloom,
rather out of breath but quiet and determined, stood before them.

"Miss Dalrymple!--Mademoiselle! There is no occasion for alarm but it
will be necessary; for us to leave here at once!"

CHAPTER XXII

AN UNEXPECTED OFFER

"To leave?" It was Sonia Turgeinov who spoke. "You mean--" Her eyes
turned oceanward but saw nothing.

He made a quick gesture toward a break in the outline of the shore where
the island swept around. "Beyond!" he said succinctly and she had no
doubt as to his meaning. The tent he had put up where it could not be
seen from the sea. But their boat--He looked at the little craft, a too
distinct object on the sands. Those on a vessel skirting the shore could
not fail to discover that incriminating bit of evidence with their
glasses. And there was no way of getting rid of it. He could not destroy
it with his bare hands. It was unsinkable. If he set it adrift, wind and
sea would drive it straight back.

"They probably discovered our absence about daybreak and surmised
correctly the direction the breeze would carry us," he muttered half
bitterly. "We must go at once." These last words he spoke firmly.

"But where?" Again it was Sonia Turgeinov who questioned him. Betty
Dalrymple remained silent; her eyes shone with a new inscrutable light;
her cheek, though pale, had the warmth of a live pearl. She touched the
sands with the tip of her shoe.

But he did not regard her, nor did he answer Sonia Turgeinov. Going to
the tent, he bent over the basket of biscuits and hastily filled his
pockets. Then, throwing a woman's heavy cloak over his arm, he stepped
quickly to Miss Dalrymple's side.

"Come," he said laconically.

Her foot, Cinderella's for daintiness, ceased its motion; she turned at
once. Around her lips a strange little smile flitted but faded almost
immediately. Save for her straightness and that proud characteristic
poise of the head, she might have seemed, at that moment of emergency,
a veritable Griselda for acquiescence. He started to walk away, when--

"What about me?" cried Sonia Turgeinov.

"You can come or you can stay," said Mr. Heatherbloom. "The chances are
that the prince will see the boat, land and get you."

"And if he doesn't?"

"There are plenty of biscuits, and I'll send back for you when I can."

"That prospect is not very inviting," she demurred. "Suppose I elect not
to risk it--to go with you?"

"It is for you to decide, and quickly," he said in a cold crisp tone.

"You dismiss my fate bruskly, Monsieur," she returned.

"There is no time to bandy words, Madam," he retorted warmly. "I am not
oblivious to you--I trust I would not be to any woman--but every minute
now is precious."

"Of course!" An instant she looked at the girl and a spark appeared in
the dark eyes. Then Sonia Turgeinov's features abruptly relaxed and she
waved her hand carelessly. "I have decided," she said in her old
manner. "Go! My best adieus, Monsieur--Mademoiselle." With a gay
courtesy. "Farewell! babes in the wood!" Her voice was once more
mocking. They moved silently away but before they had gone far enough to
disappear in the forest she suddenly ran toward them. "No, no!" she said
in a different voice. "I have changed my mind. It is such a tiny, thing,
that boat--in the glare and shine. They might not see it, and then--"
She shuddered, "How frightfully lonesome!--the terrible nights--"

He made an impatient gesture. "After me, then! You, Miss Dalrymple, will
come last."

"Ah, you think I am coming because I may wish to help them?" Sonia
Turgeinov said quickly.

"I intend to take no chances," he returned in the same tone. And the
three moved on.

He set a sharp pace; if there was need for haste at all it was now, at
the beginning of their flight. They plunged deeper into the forest; no
one spoke; only the crackling under foot and certain wood sounds broke
the stillness. Unfortunately the soil was soft so that their footprints
might be followed by any one versed in woodcraft. At times they were
forced to skirt unusually thick places, but in spite of these deviations
Mr. Heatherbloom was enabled generally to keep to their course by
consulting a small compass he had found in the boat. It was essential to
maintain as straight a line as possible. People sometimes walked round
and round in forests; he took no chance of that; better a moment lost
now and then, while stopping to wait for the quivering pointer to
settle, than returning, perhaps, to the very spot they had left.

As thus they advanced, often he looked around to reassure himself that
the young girl, in spite of the roughness of the way, yet followed. Once
Sonia Turgeinov arrested that swift backward look; her own shone with
curiosity.

"How in heaven's name did you do it, Monsieur?" she asked suddenly,
drawing nearer. "Get out of that cell, I mean. When last I saw you on
the ship, you were as securely fastened as a prisoner in the fortress at
Petersburg. Of course you must have had some one to help--"

He answered coldly, recalling a promise to protect Francois. He could,
however, and did, tell her the truth in this without involving the
youth. "When the third officer, my jailer, came to the cell and released
my hands--well, I did the best I could, surprised him, got the keys and
left him there in my stead. A little Jap trick for handling men that I
learned in San Francisco long ago," he added.

Her dark eyes lingered on him not without a trace of admiration.
"Mademoiselle is fortunate, indeed, in her champion," she murmured. "And
yet that does not explain the preparations for departure--the provisions
in the boat--other little details. How came you by that compass, for
example?"

"It explains all that will be explained."

"Which means, once more, you do not trust me?" She shrugged. "_Eh
bien_!" And again they went on in silence.

Toward noon, reaching a fringe of the forest, they found before them a
wide open space where the ground was higher and dry, but the walking
more difficult. The grass, long and tenacious, twined snake-like around
their ankles; they had to go more slowly, but reached, at length, the
top of the eminence. Here Mr. Heatherbloom stopped. They ate their
biscuit and rested, but only for a brief while. Scanning the distance,
in the direction they had come, he suddenly discerned moving forms on
the farthest edge of the open space--forms which advanced toward them.
No doubt as to their purpose could be entertained; his excellency had
landed and was already in pursuit. A smoldering fire leaped from Mr.
Heatherbloom's eyes while rage that she should thus be driven harder
filled his breast. Fool! that he had not killed the prince when
opportunity had offered that night in the cabin. His clemency
might--probably would--cost her dear.

"We've got to go on, and faster," said the young man. His hands were
clenched; his arms were stiff at his side. "Can you do it?" he asked
Betty Dalrymple. She answered; standing in a green recess, she had never
appeared more beautiful to him than in that moment of peril. Green and
red things flashed behind her--tiny feathered creatures that shone like
jewels. The dewdrops from the branches in sunless places were glistening
brilliants in the gold of her hair. But he had no time to gaze. The
figures were drawing nearer.

"You used to be able to run, Betty. It seems as if it's all my
fault"--hoarsely--"but you'll have to do so now."

Again that ready response from her! Did she, in the excitement of the
moment, call him by a Christian name not Horatio? He did not take
cognizance of it; neither did Sonia Turgeinov seem to.

The latter spoke quickly: "I remain here."

"Of course," said Mr. Heatherbloom, with a glance back toward the open
space.

She overlooked the significance or bitterness in his accent. "Keep to
the right," she said swiftly. "Believe me or not, I'll send them to the
left. It's your only chance. Otherwise they would overtake you in an
hour. Among the prince's men are Cossacks trained to feats of
endurance."

"You would do that?" He looked at her quickly. The dark eyes did not
swerve from the gray ones.

"Did I betray you on the boat?" said Sonia Turgeinov rather haughtily.

"No," he conceded.

"And yet I knew you! You know that," she affirmed.

"Yes; you knew me." Slowly.

"Did I tell his excellency who you were, when he had you, a prisoner?"
she demanded.

And--"No," he was obliged to say again.

"See." She took from her breast a tiny cross. "I had that as a child.
Would I kiss it, and--tell you a lie in the next breath?" He did not
answer. "I have lived up to the letter of my contract with his
excellency. It is at an end. Perhaps I am a little sorry for my own
part"--with a laugh slightly reckless--"or maybe"--with a flash of
seriousness--- "I have become, in the least, afraid. Your laws are very
severe, and--I had not counted on mademoiselle's steadfast resistance
to--_mon Dieu!_--a prince who had been considered irresistible--whose
principality is larger than one of your states--who would have made her,
in truth, a czaritza. I had fancied," in a rush of words, "the mad
episode might end as it did in the prince's favorite _Fire and Sword_
trilogy, with wedding-bells and rejoicing." She paused abruptly. "I had
also not counted on the all-important possibility that mademoiselle
might have bestowed her heart on another--"

"Madam!" It was Betty Dalrymple who spoke quickly.

Sonia Turgeinov laughed maliciously. "Go," she said, "or"--almost

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