Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Blindfolded by Earle Ashley Walcott

Part 2 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.7 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

and ceiling. The shadows grew larger and blacker, and took fantastic
shapes of men and beasts. And then with a confused impression of deadly
fear and of an effort to escape from peril, a blacker shadow swallowed
up all that had gone before, and carried me with it.



I awoke with the sense of threatened danger strong in my mind. For a
moment I was unable to recall where I was, or on what errand I had
come. Then memory returned in a flood, and I sprang from the bed and
peered about me.

A dim light struggled in from the darkened window, but no cause for
apprehension could be seen. I was the only creature that breathed the
air of that bleak and dingy room.

I drew aside the curtain, and threw up the window. It opened merely on
a light-well, and the blank walls beyond gave back the cheery
reflection of a patch of sunlight that fell at an angle from above.

The fresher air that crept in from the window cleared my mind, a dash
of water refreshed my body, and I was ready once more to face whatever
might befall.

I looked at my watch. It was eight o'clock, and I had slept four hours
in this place. Truly I had been imprudent after my adventure below, but
I had been right in trusting Mother Borton. Then I began to realize
that I was outrageously hungry, and I remembered that I should be at
the office by nine to receive the commands of Doddridge Knapp, should
he choose to send them.

I threw back the bolt, but when I tried to swing the door open it
resisted my efforts. The key had been missing when I closed it, but a
sliding bolt had fastened it securely. Now I saw that the door was

Here was a strange predicament. I had heard nothing of the noise of the
key before I lost myself in slumber. Mother Borton must have turned it
as an additional precaution as I slept. But how was I to get out? I
hesitated to make a noise that could attract attention. It might bring
some one less kindly disposed than my hostess of the night. But there
was no other way. I was trapped, and must take the risk of summoning

I rapped on the panel and listened. No sound rewarded me. I rapped
again more vigorously, but only silence followed. The house might have
been the grave for all the signs of life it gave back.

There was something ominous about it. To be locked, thus, in a dark
room of this house in which I had already been attacked, was enough to
shake my spirit and resolution for the moment. What lay without the
door, my apprehension asked me. Was it part of the plot to get the
secret it was supposed I held? Had Mother Borton been murdered, and the
house seized? Or had Mother Borton played me false, and was I now a
prisoner to my own party for my enforced imposture, as one who knew too
much to be left at large and too little to be of use? On a second and
calmer thought it was evidently folly to bring my jailers about my
ears, if jailers there were. I abandoned my half-formed plan of
breaking down the door, and turned to the window and the light-well.
Another window faced on the same space, not five feet away. If it were
but opened I might swing myself over and through it; but it was closed,
and a curtain hid the unknown possibilities and dangers of the
interior. A dozen feet above was the roof, with no projection or
foothold by which it might be reached. Below, the light-well ended in a
tinned floor, about four feet from the window sill.

I swung myself down, and with two steps was trying the other window. It
was unlocked. I raised the sash cautiously, but its creaking protest
seemed to my excited ears to be loud enough to wake any but the dead. I
stopped and listened after each squeak of the frame. There was no sign
of movement.

Then I pushed aside the curtain cautiously, and looked within. The room
appeared absolutely bare. Gaining confidence at the sight, I threw the
curtain farther back, and with a bound climbed in, revolver in hand.

A scurrying sound startled me for an instant, and with a scramble I
gained my feet, prepared to face whatever was before me. Then I saw the
disappearing form of a great rat, and laughed at my fears.

The room was, as I had thought, bare and deserted. There was a musty
smell about it, as though it had not been opened for a long time, and
dust and desolation lay heavy upon it. A dark stain on the floor near
the window suggested to my fancy the idea of blood. Had some wayfarer
less fortunate than I been inveigled to his death in this evil place?

There was, however, nothing here to linger for, and I hastened to try
the door. It was locked. I stooped to examine the fastening. It was of
the cheapest kind, attached to door and casement by small screws. With
a good wrench it gave way, and I found myself in a dark side-hall
between two rooms. Three steps brought me to the main hall, and I
recognized it for the same through which I had felt my way in the
darkness of the night. It was not improved by the daylight, and a
strange loneliness about it was an oppression to the spirits. There
were six or eight rooms on the floor, and the doors glowered
threateningly on me, as though they were conscious that I was an
intruder in fear of his life.

The intense stillness within the house, instead of reassuring me,
served as a threat. After my experience of the night, it spoke of
treachery, not of peace.

I took my steps cautiously down the stairs, following the way that led
to the side entrance. The saloon and restaurant room I was anxious to
evade, for there would doubtless be a barkeeper and several loiterers
about. It could not be avoided, however. As I neared the bottom of the
stairs, I saw that a door led from the hallway to the saloon, and that
it was open.

I moved slowly down, a step at a time, then from over-cautiousness
tripped and came down the last three steps at once with the clatter of
a four-horse team.

But nobody stirred. Then I glanced through the open door, and was
stricken cold with astonishment. The room was empty!

The chairs and tables that a few hours ago I had seen scattered about
were gone. There was no sign that the place had been occupied in

I stepped into the room that I had seen crowded with eager friends and
enemies, eating, drinking, ready for desperate deeds. My step echoed
strangely with the echo of an untenanted house. The bar and the shelves
behind it were swept clear of the bottles and glasses that had filled
them. Dust was thick over the floor and walls. The windows were stained
and dirty, and a paper sign on each pane informed the passers-by that
the house was "To Let."

Bewildered and apprehensive, I wondered whether, after all, the events
of the night, the summons from Dicky Nahl, the walk in the darkness,
the scene in the saloon, the encounter with the snake-eyed man, the
riot, the rush up the dark stair, and the interview with the old crone,
were not a fantastic vision from the land of dreams.

I looked cautiously through the other rooms on the first floor. They
were as bare as the main room. The only room in the whole house that
held a trace of furniture or occupancy must be the one from which I had
escaped. It seemed that an elaborate trap had been set for my benefit
with such precautions that I could not prove that it ever had been.

There was, however, no time to waste in prying into this mystery. By my
watch it was close on nine o'clock, and Doddridge Knapp might even now
be making his way to the office where he had stationed me.

The saloon's front doors were locked fast, but the side door that led
from the stairway to the street was fastened only with a spring lock,
and I swung it open and stepped to the sidewalk.

A load left my spirits as the door closed behind me. The fresh air of
the morning was like wine after the close and musty atmosphere I had
been breathing.

The street was but a prosaic place after the haunt of mystery I had
just left. It was like stepping from the Dark Ages into the nineteenth
century. Yet there was something puzzling about it. The street had no
suggestion of the familiar, and it appeared somehow to have been turned
end for end. I had lost my sense of direction. The hills were where the
bay ought to be. I seemed to have changed sides of the street, and it
took me a little time to readjust the points of the compass. I reasoned
at last that Dicky Nahl had led me to the street below before turning
to the place, and I had not noticed that we had doubled on our course.

I hurried along the streets with but a three-minute stop to swallow a
cup of coffee and a roll, and once more mounted the stairs to the
office and opened the door to Number 15.

The place was in disorder. The books that had been arranged on the desk
and shelves were now scattered about in confusion, as though they had
been hurriedly examined and thrown aside in a fruitless search. This
was a disturbing incident, and I was surprised to discover that the
door into the adjoining room was ajar. I pushed it wide open, and
started back. Before me stood Doddridge Knapp, his face pale as the
face of a corpse, and his eyes starting as though the dead had risen
before him.



The King of the Street stood for a moment staring at me with that
strange and fearsome gaze. What was there in that dynamic glance that
struck a chill to my spirit as though the very fountain of life had
been attacked? Was it the manifestation of the powerful will behind
that mask? Or was it terror or anger that was to be read in the fiery
eyes that gleamed from beneath those bushy brows, and in the play of
the cruel mouth, which from under that yellow-gray mustache gave back
the sign of the Wolf?

"Have you any orders, sir?" I asked in as calm a voice as I could

"Oh, it's you, is it?" said the Wolf slowly, covering his fangs.

It flashed on me that the attack in the Borton den was of his planning,
that Terrill was his tool, and that he had supposed me dead. It was
thus that I could account for his startled gaze and evident

"Nine o'clock was the time, you said," I suggested deferentially. "I
believe it's a minute or two past."

"Oh, yes," said Doddridge Knapp, pulling himself together. "Come in

He looked suspiciously at me as he took a seat at his desk, and
motioned me to another.

"I had a little turn," he said, eying me nervously; "a vertigo, I
believe the doctor called it. Just reach my overcoat pocket there, will
you?--the left-hand side. Yes, bring me that flask."

He poured out a small glass of liquor, and the rich odor of brandy rose
through the room. Then he took a vial from an inside pocket, counted a
few drops into the glass, and drank it at a swallow.

I marveled at the actions of the man, and wondered if he was nerving
himself to some deed that he lacked courage to perform.

When he had cleared his throat of the fiery liquor, the Wolf turned to
me with a more composed and kindly expression.

"I never drink during business hours," he said with a trace of apology
in his tone. "It's bad for business, and for the drink, too. But this
is a little trouble I've had a touch of in the last two months. Just
remember, young man, that I expect you to do your drinking after
business is over--and not too much then. And now to business," said my
employer with decision. "Take down these orders."

The King of the Street was himself once more, and I marveled again at
the quickness and clearness of his directions. I was to buy one hundred
shares of this stock, sell five hundred of that stock, buy one thousand
of another in blocks of one hundred, and sell the same in a single
block at the last session.

"And the last thing you do," he continued, "buy every share of Omega
that is offered. There'll be a big block of it thrown on the market,
and more in the afternoon. Buy it, whatever the price. There's likely
to be a big slump. Don't bid for it--don't keep up the price, you
understand--but get it."

"If somebody else is snapping it up, do I understand that I'm not to
bid over them?"

"You're not to understand anything of the kind," he said, with a little
disgust in his tone. "You're to get the stock. You've bought and sold
enough to know how to do that. But don't start a boom for the price.
Let her go down. Sabe?"

I felt that there was deep water ahead.

"Perfectly," I said. "I think I see the whole thing."

The King of the Street looked at me with a grim smile.

"Maybe you do, but all the same you'd better keep your money out of
this little deal unless you can spare it as well as not. Well, get back
to your room. You've got your check-book all right?"

Alone once more I was in despair of unraveling the tangle in which I
was involved. I felt convinced that Doddridge Knapp was the mover in
the plots that sought my life. He had, I felt sure, believed me dead,
and was startled into fear at my unheralded appearance. Yet why should
he trust me with his business? I could not doubt that the buying and
selling he had given to my care were important. I knew nothing about
the price of stocks but I was sure that the orders he had given me
involved many thousands of dollars. Yet it might be--the thought struck
home to me--that the credit had not been provided for me, and my checks
on the Nevada Bank would serve only to land me in jail.

The disturbed condition of the books attracted my attention once more.
The volumes were scattered over the desk and thrown about the room as
though somebody had been seeking for a mislaid document. I looked
curiously over them as I replaced them on the shelves. They were law-
books, California Reports, and the ordinary text-books and form-books
of the attorney. All bore on the fly-leaf the name of Horace H.
Plymire, but no paper or other indication of ownership could I find.

I wondered idly who this Plymire might be, and pictured to myself some
old attorney who had fallen into the hands of Doddridge Knapp, and had,
through misfortune, been forced to sell everything for the mess of
pottage to keep life in him. But there was small time for musing, and I
went out to do Doddridge Knapp's bidding in the stock-gambling
whirlpool of Pine Street.

There was already a confused murmur of voices about the rival exchanges
that were the battlegrounds of millionaires. The "curbstone boards"
were in session. The buyers who traded face to face, and the brokers
who carried their offices under their hats, were noisily bargaining,
raising as much clamor over buying and selling a few shares as the most
important dealer in the big boards could raise over the transfer of as
many thousands.

It was easy to find Bockstein and Eppner, and there could be no
mistaking the prosperity of the firm. The indifference of the clerks to
my presence, and the evident contempt with which an order for a hundred
shares of something was being taken from an apologetic old gentleman
were enough to assure me of that.

Bockstein and Eppner were together, evidently consulting over the
business to be done. Bockstein was tall and gray-haired, with a stubby
gray beard. Eppner was short and a little stooped, with a blue-black
mustache, snapping blue-black eyes, and strong blue-black dots over his
face where his beard struggled vainly against the devastating razor.
Both were strongly marked with the shrewd, money-getting visage. I set
forth my business.

"You wand to gif a larch order?" said Bockstein, looking over my
memoranda. "Do you haf references?"

"Yes," echoed Eppner. "References are customary, you know." He spoke in
a high-keyed voice that had irritating suggestions in it.

"Is there any reference better than cash?" I asked.

The partners looked at each other. "None," they replied.

"How much will secure you on the order?"

They named a heavy margin, and the sum total took my heart into my
mouth. How large a balance I could draw against I had not the faintest
idea. Possibly this was a trap to throw me into jail as a common
swindler attempting to pass worthless checks. But there was no time to
hesitate. I drew a check for the amount, signed Henry Wilton's name,
and tossed it over to Bockstein.

"All ridt," said the senior partner. "Zhust talk it ofer vit Misder
Eppner. He goes on der floor."

I knew well enough what was wanted. My financial standing was to be
tested by the head of the firm, while the junior partner kept me

Eppner was quick to take my ideas. A few words of explanation, and he
understood perfectly what I wanted.

"You have not bought before?" It was an interrogation, not an

"Oh, yes," I said carelessly, "but not through you, I believe."

"No, no, I think not. I should have remembered you."

I thought this might be a favorable opportunity to glean a little
information of what was going on in the market.

"Are there any good deals in prospect?" I ventured.

I could see in the blue-black depths of his eyes that an unfavorable
opinion he had conceived of my judgment was deepened by this question.
There was doubtless in it the flavor of the amateur.

"We never advise our customers," was the high-keyed reply.

"Certainly not," I replied. "I don't want advice--merely to know what
is going on."

"Excuse me, but I never gossip. It is a rule I make."

"It might interfere with your opportunities to pick up a good bargain
now and then," I suggested, as the blue-black man seemed at a loss for

"We never invest in stocks," was the curt reply.

"Excellent idea," said I, "for those who know too much or too little."

Eppner failed to smile, and could think of nothing to say. I was a
little abashed, notwithstanding the tone of haughty indifference I
took. I began to feel very young before this machine-like impersonation
of the market.

Bockstein relieved the embarrassment of the situation by coming in out
of breath, with a brave pretense of having been merely consulting a
customer in the next room.

"You haf exblained to Misder Eppner?" he inquired. "Den all is done.
Here is a card to der Board Room. If orders you haf to gif, Eppner vill
dake dem on der floor. Zhust gif him der check for margin, and all is

At the end of this harangue I found myself outside the office, with
Bockstein's back waddling toward the private room where the partners
were to have their last consultation before going to the Board.

My check had been honored, then, and Bockstein had assured himself of
my solvency. In the rebound from anxiety, I swelled with the pride of a
capitalist--on Doddridge Knapp's money.

In the Board Room of the big Exchange the uproar was something
astonishing. The confusion outside had given me a suggestion that the
business of buying and selling stocks was carried on in a somewhat less
conventional manner than the trade in groceries. But it had not quite
prepared me for the scene in the Exchange.

The floor was filled with a crowd of lunatics, howling, shaking fists,
and pushing and scrambling from one place to another with the frenzy of
a band of red men practising the scalp dance by the bright glow of the
white man's fire-water. A confused roar rose from the mob, and whenever
it showed signs of flagging a louder cry from some quarter would renew
its strength, and a blast of shouts and screams, a rush of struggling
men toward the one who had uttered the cry, and a waving of fists,
arms, and hats, suggested visions of lynching and sudden death.

After a little I was able to discover a method in the outbreaks of
apparent lunacy, and found that the shouts and yells and screams, the
shaking of fists, and the waving of arms were merely a more or less
energetic method of bidding for stocks; that the ringing of gongs and
the bellow of the big man who smiled on the bear-garden from the high
desk were merely the audible signs that another stock was being called;
and that the brazen-voiced reading of a roll was merely the official
announcement of the record of bargains and sales that had been going on
before me.

It was my good fortune to make out so much before the purchase of the
stocks on my order list was completed. The crisis was at hand in which
I must have my wits about me, and be ready to act for myself.
Eppner rushed up and reported the bargains made, handing me a slip with
the figures he had paid for the stocks. He was no longer the impassive
engine of business that he had appeared in the back room of his office.
He was now the embodiment of the riot I had been observing. His blue-
black hair was rumpled and on end. His blue-black eyes flashed with
animation. The blue-black dots that showed where his beard would be if
he had let it were almost overwhelmed by the glow that excitement threw
into his sallow cheeks.

"Any more orders?" he gasped. He was trembling with excitement and
suppressed eagerness for the fray.

"Yes," I shouted above the roar about me. "I want to buy Omega."

He gave a look that might have been a warning, if I could have read it;
but it was gone with a shrug as though he would say, "Well, it's no
business of mine."

"How much?" he asked. "Wait!"

He started away at a scream from the front, but returned in a moment.
He had bought or sold something, but I had not the least idea what it
was, or which he had done.

"It's coming!" he yelled in my ear.

The gong rang. There was a confused cry from the man at the big desk.
And pandemonium let loose.

I had thought the riot that had gone before as near the climax of noise
as it was possible to get. I was mistaken. The roar that followed the
call was to the noise that had gone before as is the hurricane to the
zephyr. There was a succession of yells, hoots, cries and bellows; men
rushed wildly at each other, swung in a mad dance, jumped up and down;
and the floor became a frantic sea of fists, arms, hats, heads, and all
things movable.

"Omega opens at sixty-five," shouted Eppner.

"Bid sixty," I shouted in reply, "but get all you can, even if you have
to pay sixty-five."

Eppner gave a bellow, and skated into a group of fat men, gesticulating
violently. The roar increased, if such a thing were possible.

In a minute Eppner was back, perspiring, and I fancied a trifle

"They're dropping it on me," he gasped in my ear. "Five hundred at
sixty-two and one thousand at sixty. Small lots coming fast and big
ones on the way."

"Good! Bid fifty-five, and then fifty, but get them."

With a roar he rushed into the midst of a whirling throng. I saw twenty
brokers about him, shouting and threatening. One in his eagerness
jumped upon the shoulders of a fat man in front of him, and shook a
paper under his nose.

I could make out nothing of what was going on, except that the
excitement was tremendous.

Twice Eppner reported to me. The stock was being hammered down stroke
by stroke. There was a rush to sell. Fifty-five--fifty-three--fifty,
came the price--then by leaps to forty-five and forty. It was a panic.
At last the gong sounded, and the scene was over. Men staggered from
the Exchange, white as death, some cursing, some angry and red, some
despairing, some elate. I could see that ten had lost for one who had

Eppner reported at the end of the call. He had bought for me twelve
thousand five hundred shares, over ten thousand of them below fifty.
The total was frightful. There was half a million dollars to pay when
the time for settlement came. It was folly to suppose that my credit at
the Nevada was of this size. But I put a bold face on it, gave a check
for the figure that Eppner named, and rose.

"Any more orders?" he asked.

"Not till afternoon."

As I passed into the street I was astonished at the swift
transformation that had come over it. The block about the Exchange was
crowded with a tossing throng, hundreds upon hundreds pushing toward
its fateful doors. But where cheerfulness and hope had ruled, fear and
gloom now vibrated in electric waves before me. The faces turned to the
pitiless, polished granite front of the great gambling-hall were white
and drawn, and on them sat Ruin and Despair. The men were for the most
part silent, with here and there one cursing; the women, who were there
by scores, wept and mourned; and from the multitudes rose that peculiar
whisper of crowds that tells of apprehension of things worse to come.
And this, I must believe, was the work of Doddridge Knapp.



Doddridge Knapp was seated calmly in my office when I opened the door.
There was a grim smile about the firm jaws, and a satisfied glitter in
the keen eyes. The Wolf had found his prey, and the dismay of the sheep
at the sight of his fangs gave him satisfaction instead of distress.

The King of the Street honored me with a royal nod.

"There seems to have been a little surprise for somebody on the Board
this morning," he suggested.

"I heard something about it on the street," I admitted.

"It was a good plan and worked well. Let me see your memoranda of

I gave him my slips.

He looked over them with growing perplexity in his face.

"Here's twelve thousand five hundred shares of Omega."


"You paid too much for that first lot." He was still poring over the

"It's easier to see that now than then," I suggested dryly.

"Humph! yes. But there's something wrong here." He was comparing my
list with another in his hand.

"There!" I thought; "my confounded ignorance has made a mess of it."
But I spoke with all the confidence I could assume: "What's the matter,

"Eleven thousand and twelve thousand five hundred make twenty-three
thousand five hundred; and here are sales of Omega this morning of
thirty-three thousand eight hundred and thirty." He seemed to be
talking more to himself than to me, and to be far from pleased.

"How's that? I don't understand." I was all in the dark over his

"I picked up eleven thousand shares in the other Boards this morning,
and twelve thousand five hundred through you, but somebody has taken in
the other ten thousand." The King of the Street seemed puzzled and, I
thought, a little worried.

"Well, you got over twenty-three thousand shares," I suggested
consolingly. "That's a pretty good morning's work."

The King of the Street gave me a contemptuous glance.

"Don't be a fool, Wilton. I sold ten thousand of those shares to

A new light broke upon me. I was getting lessons of one of the many
ways in which the market was manipulated.

"Then you think that somebody else--"

The King of the Street broke in with a grim smile.

"Never mind what I think. I've got the contract for doing the thinking
for this job, and I reckon I can 'tend to it."

The great speculator was silent for a few moments.

"I might as well be frank with you," he said at last. "You'll have to
know something, to work intelligently. I must get control of the Omega
Company, and to do it I've got to have more stock. I've been afraid of
a combination against me, and I guess I've struck it. I can't be sure
yet, but when those ten thousand shares were gobbled up on a panicky
market, I'll bet there's something up."

"Who is in it?" I asked politely.

"They've kept themselves covered," said the King of the Street, "but
I'll have them out in the open before the end. And then, my boy, you'll
see the fur fly."

As these words were uttered I could see the yellow-gray goatee rise
like bristles, and the fangs of the Wolf shine white under the yellow-
gray mustache.

"I've got a few men staked out," he continued slowly, "and I reckon
I'll know something about it by this time to-morrow." There was the
growl of the Wolf in his voice.

"Now for this afternoon," he continued. "There's got to be some sharp
work done. I reckon the falling movement is over. We've got to pay for
what we get from now on. I've got a man looking after the between-Board
trading. With the scare that's on in the chipper crowd out there, I
look to pick up a thousand shares or so at about forty."

"Well, what's the program?" I asked cheerfully.

"Buy," he said briefly. "Take everything that's offered this side of

"Um--there's a half-million wanted already to settle for what I bought
this morning."

The bushy brows drew down, but the King of the Street answered lightly:

"Your check is good for a million, my boy, as long as it goes to settle
for what you're ordered to buy." Then he added grimly: "I don't think
you'd find it worth much for anything else."

There was a knock at the door beyond, and he hastily rose.

"Be here after the two-thirty session," he said. And the Wolf, huge and
masterful, disappeared with a stealthy tread, and the door closed
softly behind him.

A million dollars! My check honored for unlimited amounts! Doddridge
Knapp trusting me with a great fortune! I was overwhelmed, intoxicated,
with the consciousness of power.

Yet this was the man who had brought death to Henry Wilton, and had
twice sought my life in the effort to wrest from me a packet of
information I did not have. This was the man whose face had gleamed
fierce and hateful in the lantern's flash in the alley. This was the
man I had sworn to bring to the gallows for a brutal crime. And now I
was his trusted agent, with control, however limited, of millions.

It was a puzzle too deep for me. I was near coming to Mother Borton's
view that there was something uncanny about Doddridge Knapp. Did two
spirits animate that body? What was the thread that should join all
parts of the mystery into one harmonious whole?

I wondered idly who Doddridge Knapp's visitor might be, but as I could
see no way of finding out, and felt no special concern over his
identity or purposes, I rose and left the office. As I stepped into the
hall I discovered that somebody had a deeper curiosity than I. A man
was stooping to the keyhole of Doddridge Knapp's room in the endeavor
to see or hear. As he heard the sound of my opening door he started up,
and with a bound, was around the turn of the hall and pattering down
the stairs.

In another bound I was after him. I had seen his form for but a second,
and his face not at all. But in that second I knew him for Tim Terrill
of the snake-eyes and the murderous purpose.

When I reached the head of the stairs he was nowhere to be seen, but I
heard the patter of his feet below and plunged down three steps at a
time and into Clay street, nearly upsetting a stout gentleman in my
haste. The street was busy with people, but no sign of the snake-eyed
man greeted me.

Much disturbed in mind at this apparition of my enemy, I sought in vain
for some explanation of his presence. Was he spying on Doddridge Knapp?
Did he not stand on a better footing with his employer than this? He
was, I must suppose, trusted with the most secret and evil purposes of
that strange man, and should be able to speak with him on even terms.
Yet here he was, doing the work of the merest spy. What wickedness was
he planning? What treachery was he shaping in his designs on the man
whose bread he was eating and whose plans of crime he was the chief
agent to assist or execute?

I must have stood gaping in the street like a countryman at a fair as I
revolved these questions in my mind without getting an answer to them,
for I was roused by a man bumping into me roughly.

I suspected that he had done it on purpose, but I begged his pardon and
felt for my watch. I could find none of my personal property missing,
but I noticed the fellow reeling back toward me, and doubled my fist
with something of an intention to commit a breach of the peace if he
repeated his trick. I thought better of it, and started by him briskly,
when he spoke in a low tone:

"You'd better go to your room, Mr. Wilton." He said something more that
I did not catch, and, reeling on, disappeared in the crowd before I
could turn to mark or question him.

I thought at first that he meant the room I had just left. Then it
occurred to me that it was the room Henry had occupied--the room in
which I had spent my first dreadful night in San Francisco, and had not
revisited in the thirty hours since I had left it.

The advice suited my inclination, and in a few minutes I was entering
the dingy building and climbing the worn and creaking stairs. The place
lost its air of mystery in the broad sunshine and penetrating daylight,
and though its interior was as gloomy as ever, it lacked the haunting
suggestions it had borrowed from darkness and the night.

Slipped under the door I found two notes. One was from Detective
Coogan, and read:

"Inquest this afternoon. Don't want you. Have another story. Do you
want the body?"

The other was in a woman's hand, and the faint perfume of the first
note I had received rose from the sheet. It read:

"I do not understand your silence. The money is ready. What is the

The officer's note was easy enough to answer. I found paper, and,
assuring Detective Coogan of my gratitude at escaping the inquest, I
asked him to turn the body over to the undertaker to be buried at my

The other note was more perplexing. I could make nothing of it. It was
evidently from my unknown employer, and her anxiety was plain to see.
But I was no nearer to finding her than before, and if I knew how to
reach her I knew not what to say. As I was contemplating this state of
affairs with some dejection, and sealing my melancholy note to
Detective Coogan, there was a quick step in the hall and a rap at the
panel. It was a single person, so I had no hesitation in opening the
door, but it gave me a passing satisfaction to have my hand on the
revolver in my pocket as I turned the knob.

It was a boy, who thrust a letter into my hand.

"Yer name Wilton?" he inquired, still holding on to the envelope.


"That's yourn, then." And he was prepared to make a bolt.

"Hold on," I said. "Maybe there's an answer."

"No, there ain't. The bloke as gave it to me said there weren't."

"Well, here's something I want you to deliver," said I, taking up my
note to Detective Coogan. "Do you know where the City Hall is?"

"Does I know--what are yer givin' us?" said the boy with infinite scorn
in his voice.

"A quarter," I returned with a laugh, tossing him the coin. "Wait a

"Yer ain't bad stuff," said the boy with a grin. I tore open the
envelope and read on the sheet that came from it:

"Sell everything you bought--never mind the price. Other orders off. D.

I gasped with amazement. Had Doddridge Knapp gone mad? To sell twelve
thousand five hundred shares of Omega was sure to smash the market, and
the half-million dollars that had been put into them would probably
shrink by two hundred thousand or more if the order was carried out.

I read the note again.

Then a suspicion large enough to overshadow the universe grew up in my
brain. I recalled that Doddridge Knapp had given me a cipher with which
he would communicate with me, and I believed, moreover, that he had no
idea where I might be at the present moment.

"It's all right, sonny," I said. "Trot along."

"Where's yer letter?" asked the boy, loyally anxious to earn his

"It won't have to go now," I said coolly. I believed that the boy meant
no harm to me, but I was not taking any risks.

The boy sauntered down the hall, singing _My Name Is Hildebrandt
Montrose_, and I was left gazing at the letter with a melancholy

"Well, I must look like a sucker if they think I can be taken in by a
trick like that," was my mental comment. I charged the scheme up to my
snake-eyed friend and had a poorer opinion of his intelligence than I
had hitherto entertained. Yet I was astonished that he should, even
with the most hearty wish to bring about my downfall, contrive a plan
that would inflict a heavy loss on his employer and possibly ruin him
altogether. There was more beneath than I could fathom. My brain
refused to work in the maze of contradictions and mysteries, plots and
counterplots, in which I was involved.

I took my way at last toward the market, and, hailing a boy to whom I
intrusted my letter to Detective Coogan, walked briskly to Pine Street.



The street had changed its appearance in the two or three hours since I
had made my way from the Exchange through the pallid, panic-stricken
mob. There were still thousands of people between the corner of
Montgomery Street and Leidesdorff, and the little alley itself was
packed full of shouting, struggling traders. The thousands were broken
into hundreds of groups, and men were noisily buying and selling, or
discussing the chances of the market when the "big Board" should open
once more. But there was an air of confidence, almost of buoyancy, in
place of the gloom and terror that had lowered over the street at noon.
Plainly the panic was over, and men were inspirited by a belief that
"stocks were going up."

I made a few dispositions accordingly. Taking Doddridge Knapp's hint, I
engaged another broker as a relief to Eppner, a short fat man, with the
baldest head I ever saw, a black beard and a hook-nose, whose
remarkable activity and scattering charges had attracted my attention
in the morning session.

Wallbridge was his name, I found, and he proved to be as intelligent as
I could wish--a merry little man, with a joke for all things, and a
flow of words that was almost overwhelming.

"Omega? Yes," chuckled the stout little broker, after he had assured
himself of my financial standing. "But you ought to have bought this
morning, if that's what you want. It was hell popping and the roof
giving 'way all at once." The little man had an abundant stock of
profanity which he used unconsciously and with such original variations
that one almost forgot the blasphemy of it while listening to him. "You
ought to have been there," he continued, "and watched the boys shell
'em out!"

"Yes, I heard you had lively times."

"Boiling," he said, with coruscating additions in the way of speech and
gesture. "If it hadn't been for Decker and some fellow we haven't had a
chance to make out yet the bottom of the market would have been resting
on the roof of the lower regions." The little man's remark was slightly
more direct and forcible, but this will do for a revised version.

"Decker!" I exclaimed, pricking up my ears. "I thought he had quit the

As I had never heard of Mr. Decker before that moment this was not
exactly the truth, but I thought it would serve me better.

"Decker out of it!" gasped Wallbridge, his bald head positively
glistening at the absurdity of the idea. "He'll be out of it when he's
carried out."

"I meant out of Omega. Is he getting up a deal?"

The little broker looked vexed, as though it crossed his mind that he
had said too much.

"Oh, no. Guess not. Don't think he is," he said rapidly. "Just wanted
to save the market, I guess. If Omega had gone five points lower, there
would have been the sickest times in the Street that we've seen since
the Bank of California closed and the shop across the way,"--pointing
his thumb at the Exchange,--"had to be shut up. But maybe it wasn't
Decker, you know. That's just what was rumored on the Street, you

I suspected that my little broker knew more than he was willing to
tell, but I forbore to press him further; and giving him the order to
buy all the Omega stock he could pick up under fifty, I made my way to

The blue-black eyes of that impassive agent snapped with a glow of
interest when I gave him my order to sell the other purchases of the
morning and buy Omega, but faded into a dull stare when I lingered for

I was not to be abashed.

"I wonder who was picking up Omega this morning?" I said.

"Oh, some of the shorts getting ready to fill contracts," he replied in
his dry, uninterested tones.

"I heard that Decker was in the market for the stock," I said.

The blue-black eyes gave a flash of genuine surprise.

"Decker!" he exclaimed. Then his eyes fell, and he paused a moment
before replying in his high inflexible voice. "He might be."

"Is he after Omega, or is he just bracing up the market?"

"Excuse me," said Eppner with the cold reflection of an apologetic
tone, "but we never advise customers. Are you walking over to the

In the Exchange all was excitement, and the first call brought a roar
of struggling brokers. I could make nothing of the clamor, but my
nearest neighbor shouted in my ear:

"A strong market!"

"It looks that way," I shouted back. It certainly was strong in noise.

I made out at last that prices were being held to the figures of the
morning's session, and in some cases were forced above them.

The excitement grew as the call approached Omega. There was an electric
tension in the air that told of the anxious hopes and fears that
centered in the coming struggle. The stock was called at last, and I
looked for a roar that would shake the building and a scene of riot on
the floor that would surpass anything I had witnessed yet.

It failed to come. There was almost a pause in the proceedings.

I caught a glimpse of Doddridge Knapp across the room, looking on with
a grim smile on the wolf jaws and an apparently impassive interest in
the scene. I marveled at his coolness when his fortune, perhaps, turned
on the events of the next five minutes. He gave no sign, nor once
looked in my direction.

The clamor on the floor began and swelled in volume, and a breath of
visible relief passed over the anxious assembly.

Wallbridge and Eppner made a dive at once for a yelling broker, and a
cold chill ran down my back. I saw then that I had set my brokers
bidding against each other for the same stock.

"Great Mammon!" I thought. "If Doddridge Knapp ever finds it out, what
a circus there will be!"

"She's going up!" said my neighbor with a shout of joy. He owned none
of the stock, but like the rest of the populace he was a bull on

I nodded with a dubious attempt to imitate his signs of satisfaction.

Forty-five--forty-seven--fifty-five--it was going up by leaps. I
blessed the forethought that had suggested to me to put a limit on
Wallbridge and stop the competition between my agents at fifty. The
contest grew warmer. I could follow with difficulty the course of the
proceedings, but I knew that Omega was bounding upward.

The call closed amid animation; but the excitement was nothing compared
to the scene that had followed the fall in the morning. Omega stood at
eighty asked, and seventy-eight bid, and the ship of the stock gamblers
was again sailing on an even keel. Some hundreds had been washed
overboard, but there were thousands left, and nobody foresaw the day
when the market would take the fashion of a storm-swept hulk, with only
a chance survivor clinging here and there to the wreckage and
exchanging tales of the magnificence that once existed.

The session was over at last, and Wallbridge and Eppner handed me their
memoranda of purchases.

"You couldn't pick Omega off the bushes this afternoon, Mr. Wilton,"
said Wallbridge, wiping his bald head vigorously. "There's fools at all
times, and some of 'em were here and ready to drop what they had; but
not many. I gathered in six hundred for you, but I had to fight for

I thanked the merry broker, and gave him a check for his balance.

Eppner had done some better with a wider margin, but all told I had
added but three thousand one hundred shares to my list. I wondered how
much of this had been sold to me by my employer. Plainly, if Doddridge
Knapp was needing Omega stock he would have to pay for it.

There was no one to be seen as I reached Room 15. The connecting door
was closed and locked, and no sound came from behind it. I turned to
arrange the books, to keep from a bad habit of thinking over the
inexplicable. But there was nothing exciting enough, in the statutes or
reports of court decisions or text-books, to cover up the questions
against which I had been beating in vain ever since I had entered this
accursed city.

An hour passed, and no Doddridge Knapp. It was long past office hours.
The sun had disappeared in the bank of fog that was rolling up from the
ocean and coming in wisps and streamers over the hills, and the light
was fast failing.

Just as I was considering whether my duty to my employer constrained me
to wait longer, I caught sight of an envelope that had been slipped
under the door. I wondered, as I hastily opened it and brought its
inclosure to the failing light, how it could have got there. It was in
cipher, but it yielded to the key with which Doddridge Knapp had
provided me. I made it out to be this:

"Come to my house to-night.
Bring your contracts with you.

I was thrown into some perplexity by this order. For a little I
suspected a trap, but on second thought this seemed unlikely. The
office furnished as convenient a place for homicidal diversions as he
could wish, if these were in his intention, and possibly a visit to
Doddridge Knapp in his own house would give me a better clue to his
habits and purposes, and a better chance of bringing home to him his
awful crime, than a month together on the Street.

The clocks were pointing past eight when I mounted the steps that led
to Doddridge Knapp's door. Doddridge Knapp's house fronted upper Pine
Street much as Doddridge Knapp himself fronted lower Pine Street. There
was a calmly aggressive look about it that was typical of the owner. It
defied the elements with easy strength, as Doddridge Knapp defied the
storms of the market. I had the fancy that even if the directory had
not given me its position I might have picked it out from its neighbors
by its individuality, its impression of reserve force.

I had something of trepidation, after all, as I rang the bell, for I
was far from being sure that Doddridge Knapp was above carrying out his
desperate purposes in his own house, and I wondered whether I should
ever come out again, once I was behind those massive doors. I had taken
the precaution to find a smaller revolver, "suitable for an evening
call," as I assured myself, but it did not look to be much of a
protection in case the house held a dozen ruffians of the Terrill
brand. However, I must risk it. I gave my name to the servant who
opened the door.

"This way," he said quietly.

I had hardly time as I passed to note the large hall, the handsome
staircase, and the wide parlors that hung rich with drapery, but in
darkness. I was led beyond and behind them, and in a moment was ushered
into a small, plainly-furnished room; and at a desk covered with papers
sat Doddridge Knapp, the picture of the Wolf in his den.

"Sit down, Wilton," said he with grim affability, giving his hand. "You
won't mind if an old man doesn't get up."

I made some conventional reply.

"Sorry to disappoint you this afternoon, and take up your evening," he
said; "but I found some business that needed more immediate attention.
There was a little matter that had to be looked after in person." And
the Wolf's fangs showed in a cruel smile, which assured me that the
"little matter" had terminated unhappily for the other man.

I airily professed myself happy to be at his service at any time.

"Yes, yes," he said; "but let's see your memoranda. Did you do well
this afternoon?"

"No-o," I returned apologetically. "Not so well as I wished."

He took the papers and looked over them carefully.

"Thirty-one hundred," he said reflectively. "Those sales were all
right. Well, I was afraid you couldn't get above three thousand. I
didn't get more than two thousand in the other Boards and on the

"That was the best I could do," I said modestly. "They average at
sixty-five. Omega got away from us this afternoon like a runaway

"Yes, yes," said the King of the Street, studying his papers with drawn
brows. "That's all right. I'll have to wait a bit before going
further." I bowed as became one who had no idea of the plans ahead.

"And now," said Doddridge Knapp, turning on me a keen and lowering
gaze, "I'd like to know what call you have to be spying on me?"

I opened my eyes wide in wonder.

"Spying? I don't understand."

"No?" said he, with something between a growl and a snarl. "Well, maybe
you don't understand that, either!" And he tossed me a bit of paper.

I felt sure that I did not. My ignorance grew into amazement as I read.
The slip bore the words:

"I have bought Crown Diamond. What's the limit?

"I certainly don't understand," I said. "What does it mean?"

"The man who wrote it ought to know," growled Doddridge Knapp, with his
eyes flashing and the yellow-gray mustache standing out like bristles.
The fangs of the Wolf were in sight.

"Well, you'll have to look somewhere else for him," I said firmly. "I
never saw the note, and never bought a share of Crown Diamond."

Doddridge Knapp bent forward, and looked for an instant as though he
would leap upon me. His eye was the eye of a wild beast in anger. If I
had written that note I should have gone through the window without
stopping for explanations. As I had not written it I sat there coolly
and looked him in the face with an easy conscience.

"Well, well," he said at last, relaxing his gaze, "I almost believe

"There's no use going any further, Mr. Knapp, unless you believe me

"I see you understand what I was going to say," he said quietly. "But
if you didn't send that, who did?"

"Well, if I were to make a guess, I should say it was the man who wrote

I tossed him in turn the note I had received in the afternoon, bidding
me sell everything.

The King of the Street looked at it carefully, and his brows drew lower
and lower as its import dawned on him. The look of angry perplexity
deepened on his face.

"Where did you get this?"

I detailed the circumstances.

The anger that flashed in his eyes was more eloquent than the outbreak
of curses I expected to hear.

"Um!" he said at last with a grim smile. "It's lucky, after all, that
you had something besides cotton in that skull of yours, Wilton."

"A fool might have been caught by it," I said modestly.

"There looks to be trouble ahead," he said, "There's a rascally gang in
the market these days." And the King of the Street sighed over the
dishonesty that had corrupted the stock gamblers' trade. I smiled
inwardly, but signified my agreement with my employer.

"Well, who wrote them?" he asked almost fiercely. "They seem to come
from the same hand."

"Maybe you'd better ask that fellow who had his eye at your keyhole
when I left the office this noon."

"Who was that?" The Wolf gave a startled look. "Why didn't you tell

"He was a well-made, quick, lithe fellow, with an eye that reminded me
of a snake. I gave chase to him, but couldn't overhaul him. He squirmed
away in the crowd, I guess."

The last part of my tale was unheard. At the description of the snake-
eyed man, Doddridge Knapp sank back in his chair, the flash of anger
died out of his eyes, and his mind was far away.

Was it terror, or anxiety, or wonder, that swept in shadow across his
face? The mask that never gave up a thought or purpose before the
changing fortunes of the market was not likely to fail its owner here.
I could make nothing out of the page before me, except that the vision
of Terrill had startled him.

"Why didn't you tell me?" he said at last, in a steady voice.

"I didn't suppose it was worth coming back for, after I got into the
street. And, besides, you were busy."

"Yes, yes, you were right: you are not to come--of course, of course."

The King of the Street looked at me curiously, and then said smoothly:

"But this isn't business." And he plunged into the papers once more.
"There were over nine thousand shares sold this afternoon, and I got
only five thousand of them."

"I suppose Decker picked the others up," I said.

The King of the Street did me the honor to look at me in amazement.

"Decker!" he roared. "How did you--" Then he paused and his voice
dropped to its ordinary tone. "I reckon you're right. What gave you the

I frankly detailed my conversation with Wallbridge. As I went on, I
fancied that the bushy brows drew down and a little anxiety showed
beneath them.

I had hardly finished my account when there was a knock at the door,
and the servant appeared.

"Mrs. Knapp's compliments, and she would like to see Mr. Wilton when
you are done," he said.

I could with difficulty repress an exclamation, and my heart climbed
into my throat. I was ready to face the Wolf in his den, but here was a
different matter. I recalled that Mrs. Knapp was a more intimate
acquaintance of Henry Wilton's than Doddridge Knapp had been, and I saw
Niagara ahead of my skiff.

"Yes, yes; quite likely," said my employer, referring to my story of
Wallbridge. "I heard something of the kind from my men. I'll know to-
morrow for certain, I expect. I forgot to tell you that the ladies
would want to see you. They have missed you lately." And the Wolf
motioned me to the door where the servant waited.

Here was a predicament. I was missed and wanted--and by the ladies. My
heart dropped back from my throat, and I felt it throbbing in the
lowest recesses of my boot-heels as I rose and followed my guide.



As the door swung open, my heart almost failed me. If there had been a
chance of escape I should have made the bolt, then and there.

I had not counted on an interview with the women of Doddridge Knapp's
family. I had, to be sure, vaguely foreseen the danger to come from
meeting them, but I had been confident that it would be easy to avoid
them. And now, in the face of the emergency, my resources had failed
me, and I was walking into Mrs. Knapp's reception-room without the
glimmer of an idea of how I should find my way out.

Two women rose to greet me as I entered the room.

"Good evening," said the elder woman, holding out her hand. "You have
neglected us for a long time." There was something of reproach as well
as civility in the voice.

Mrs. Doddridge Knapp, for I had no doubt it was she who greeted me, was
large of frame but well-proportioned, and stood erect, vigorous, with
an air of active strength rare in one of her years. Her age was, I
supposed, near forty-five. Her face was strong and resolute, yet it was
with the strength and resolution of a woman, not of a man. Altogether
she looked a fit mate for Doddridge Knapp.

"Yes," I replied, adjusting my manner nicely to hers, "I have been very

As she felt the touch of my hand and heard the sound of my voice, I
thought I saw a look of surprise, apprehension and hesitation in her
eyes. If it was there it was gone in an instant, and she replied gaily:

"Busy? How provoking of you to say so! You should never be too busy to
take the commands of the ladies."

"That is why I am here," I interrupted with my best bow. But she
continued without noting it:

"Luella wagered with me that you would make that excuse. I expected
something more original."

"I am very sorry," I said, with a reflection of the bantering air she
had assumed.

"Oh, indeed!" exclaimed the younger woman, to whom my eyes had turned
as Mrs. Knapp spoke her name. "How very unkind of you to say so, when I
have just won a pair of gloves by it. Good evening to you!" And she
held out her hand.

It was with a strong effort that I kept my self-possession, as for the
first time I clasped the hand of Luella Knapp.

Was it the thrill of her touch, the glance of her eye, or the magnetism
of her presence, that set my pulses beating to a new measure, and gave
my spirit a breath from a new world? Whatever the cause, as I looked
into the clear-cut face and the frank gray eyes of the woman before me,
I was swept by a flood of emotion that was near overpowering my self-

Nor was it altogether the emotion of pleasure that was roused within
me. As I looked into her eyes, I had the pain of seeing myself in a
light that had not as yet come to me. I saw myself not the friend of
Henry Wilton, on the high mission of bringing to justice the man who
had foully sent him to death. In that flash I saw Giles Dudley hiding
under a false name, entering this house to seek for another link in the
chain that would drag this girl's father to the gallows and turn her
life to bitterness and misery. And in the reflection from the clear
depths of the face before me, I saw Imposter and Spy written large on
my forehead.

I mastered the emotion in a moment and took the seat to which she had
waved me.

I was puzzled a little at the tone in which she addressed me. There was
a suggestion of resentment in her manner that grew on me as we talked.

Can I describe her? Of what use to try? She was not beautiful, and
"pretty" was too petty a word to apply to Luella Knapp. "Fine looking,"
if said with the proper emphasis, might give some idea of her
appearance, for she was tall in figure, with features that were
impressive in their attractiveness. Yet her main charm was in the light
that her spirit and intelligence threw on her face; and this no one can

The brightness of her speech did not disappoint the expectation I had
thus formed of her. It was a finely-cultivated mind that was revealed
to me, and it held a wit rare to woman. I followed her lead in the
conversational channel, giving but a guiding oar when it turned toward
acquaintances she held in common with Henry Wilton, or events that had
interested them together.

Through it all the idea that Miss Knapp was regarding me with a hidden
disapproval was growing on me. I decided that Henry had made some
uncommon blunder on his last visit and that I was suffering the penalty
for it. The admiration I felt for the young woman deepened with every
sentence she spoke, and I was ready to do anything to restore the good
opinion that Henry might have endangered, and in lieu of apology
exerted myself to the utmost to be agreeable.

I was unconscious of the flight of time until Mrs. Knapp turned from
some other guests and walked toward us.

"Come, Henry," she said pointedly, "Luella is not to monopolize you all
the time. Besides, there's Mr. Inman dying to speak to her."

I promptly hated Mr. Inman with all my heart and felt not the slightest
objection to his demise; but at her gesture of command I rose and
accompanied Mrs. Knapp, as a young man with eye-glasses and a smirk
came to take my place. I left Luella Knapp, congratulating myself over
my cleverness in escaping the pitfalls that lined my way.

"Now I've a chance to speak to you at last," said Mrs. Knapp.

"At your service," I bowed. "I owe you something."

"Indeed?" Mrs. Knapp raised her eyebrows in surprise.

"For your kind recommendation to Mr. Knapp."

"My recommendation? You have a little the advantage of me."

I was stricken with painful doubts, and the cold sweat started upon me.
Perhaps this was not Mrs. Knapp after all.

"Oh, perhaps you didn't mean it," I said.

"Indeed I did, if it was a recommendation. I'm afraid it was
unconscious, though. Mr. Knapp does not consult me about his business."

I was in doubt no longer. It was the injured pride of the wife that
spoke in the tone.

"I'm none the less obliged," I said carelessly. "He assured me that he
acted on your words."

"What on earth are you doing for Mr. Knapp?" she asked earnestly,
dropping her half-bantering tone. There was a trace of apprehension in
her eyes.

"I'm afraid Mr. Knapp wouldn't think your recommendations were quite
justified if I should tell you. Just get him in a corner and ask him."

"I suppose it is that dreadful stock market."

"Oh, madam, let me say the chicken market. There is a wonderful
opportunity just now for a corner in fowls."

"There are a good many to be plucked in the market that Mr. Knapp will
look after," she said with a smile. But there was something of a
worried look behind it. "Oh, you know, Henry, that I can't bear the
market. I have seen too much of the misery that has come from it. It
can eat up a fortune in an hour. A dear friend saw her home, the house
over her head, all she possessed, go in a breath on a turn of the cards
in that dreadful place. And her husband left her to face it with two
little children. The coward escaped it with a bullet through his head,
after he had brought ruin on his home and family."

She shuddered as she looked about her, as though in fancy she saw
herself turned from the palace into the street.

"Mr. Knapp is not a man to lose," I said.

"Mr. Knapp is a strong man," she said with a proud straightening of her
figure. "But the whirlpool can suck down the strongest swimmer."

"But I suspect Mr. Knapp makes whirlpools instead of swimming into
them," I said meaningly.

"Ah, Henry," she said sadly, "how often have I told you that the best
plan may come to ruin in the market? It may not take much to start a
boulder rolling down the mountain-side, but who is to tell it to stop
when once it is set going?"

"I think," said I, smiling, "that Mr. Knapp would ride the boulder and
find himself in a gold mine at the end of the journey."

"Perhaps. But you're not telling me what Mr. Knapp is doing."

"He can tell you much better than I."

"No doubt," she said with a trace of sarcasm in her voice.

"And here he comes to do it, I expect," I said, as the tall figure of
the King of the Street appeared in the doorway opposite.

"I'm afraid I shall have to depend on the newspapers," she said. "Mr.
Knapp is as much afraid of a woman's tongue as you are. Oh," she
continued after a moment's pause, "I was going to make you give an
account of yourself; but since you will tell nothing I must introduce
you to my cousin, Mrs. Bowser." And she led me, unresisting, to a
short, sharp-featured woman of sixty or thereabouts, who rustled her
silks, and in a high, thin voice professed herself charmed to see me.

She might have claimed and held the record as the champion of the
conversational ring. I had never met her equal before, nor have I met
one to surpass her since.

Had I been long in the city? She had been here only a week. Came from
down Maine way. This was a dear, dreadful city with such nice people
and such dreadful winds, wasn't it? And then she gave me a catalogue of
the places she had visited, and the attractions of San Francisco, with
a wealth of detail and a poverty of interest that was little less than

Fortunately she required nothing but an occasional murmur of assent in
the way of answer from me.

I looked across the room to the corner where Luella was entertaining
the insignificant Inman. How vivacious and intelligent she appeared!
Her face and figure grew on me in attractiveness, and I felt that I was
being very badly used. As I came to this point I was roused by the
sound of two low voices that just behind me were plainly audible under
the shrill treble of Mrs. Bowser. They were women with their heads
close in gossip.

"Shocking, isn't it?" said one.

"Dreadful!" said the other. "It gives me the creeps to think of it."

"Why don't they lock him up? Such a creature shouldn't be allowed to go
at large."

"Oh, you see, maybe they can't be sure about it. But I've heard it's a
case of family pride."

I was recalled from this dialogue by Mrs. Bowser's fan on my arm, and
her shrill voice in my ear with, "What is your idea about it, Mr.

"I think you are perfectly right," I said heartily, as she paused for
an answer.

"Then I'll arrange it with the others at once," she said.

This was a bucket of ice-water on me. I had not the first idea to what
I had committed myself.

"No, don't," I said. "Wait till we have time to discuss it again."

"Oh, we can decide on the time whenever you like. Will some night week
after next suit you?"

I had to throw myself on the mercy of the enemy.

"I'm afraid I'm getting rather absent-minded," I said humbly. "I was
looking at Miss Knapp and lost the thread of the discourse for a

"That's what I was talking about," she said sharply,--"about taking her
and the rest of us through Chinatown."

"Yes, yes. I remember," I said unblushingly. "If I can get away from
business, I'm at your service at any time."

Then Mrs. Bowser wandered on with the arrangements she would find
necessary to make, and I heard one of the low voices behind me:

"Now this is a profound secret, you know. I wouldn't have them know for
the world that any one suspects. I just heard it this week, myself."

"Oh, I wouldn't dare breathe it to a soul," said the other. "But I'm
sure I shan't sleep a wink tonight." And they moved away.

I interrupted Mrs. Bowser to explain that I must speak to Mrs. Knapp,
and made my escape as some one stopped to pass a word with her.

"Oh, must you go, Henry?" said Mrs. Knapp. "Well, you must come again
soon. We miss you when you stay away. Don't let Mr. Knapp keep you too

I professed myself happy to come whenever I could find the time, and
looked about for Luella. She was nowhere to be seen. I left the room a
little disappointed, but with a swelling of pride that I had passed the
dreaded ordeal and had been accepted as Henry Wilton in the house in
which I had most feared to meet disaster. My opinion of my own
cleverness had risen, in the language of the market, "above par."

As I passed down the hall, a tall willowy figure stepped from the
shadow of the stair. My heart gave a bound of delight. It was Luella
Knapp. I should have the pleasure of a leave-taking in private.

"Oh, Miss Knapp!" I said. "I had despaired of having the chance to bid
you good night." And I held out my hand.

She ignored the hand. I could see from her heaving bosom and shortened
breath that she was laboring under great agitation. Yet her face gave
no evidence of the effort that it cost her to control herself.

"I was waiting for you," she said in a low voice.

I started to express my gratification when she interrupted me.

"Who are you?" broke from her lips almost fiercely.

I was completely taken aback, and stared at her in amazement with no
word at command.

"You are not Henry Wilton," she said rapidly. "You have come here with
his name and his clothes, and made up to look like him, and you try to
use his voice and take his place. Who are you?"

There was a depth of scorn and anger and apprehension in that low voice
of hers that struck me dumb.

"Can you not answer?" she demanded, catching her breath with
excitement. "You are not Henry Wilton."

"Well?" I said half-inquiringly. It was not safe to advance or retreat.

"Well--! well--!" She repeated my answer, with indignation and disdain
deepening in her voice. "Is that all you have to say for yourself?"

"What should I say?" I replied quietly. "You make an assertion. Is
there anything more to be said?"

"Oh, you may laugh at me if you please, because you can hoodwink the

I protested that laughter was the last thing I was thinking of at the

Then she burst out impetuously:

"Oh, if I were only a man! No; if I were a man I should be hoodwinked
like the rest. But you can not deceive me. Who are you? What are you
here for? What are you trying to do?"

She was blazing with wrath. Her tone had raised hardly an interval of
the scale, but every word that came in that smooth, low voice was heavy
with contempt and anger. It was the true daughter of the Wolf who stood
before me.

"I am afraid, Miss Knapp, you are not well tonight," I said soothingly.

"What have you done with Henry Wilton?" she asked fiercely. "Don't try
to speak with his voice. Drop your disguise. You are no actor. You are
no more like him than--"

The simile failed her in her wrath.

"Satyr to Hyperion," I quoted bitterly. "Make it strong, please."

I had thought myself in a tight place in the row at Borton's, but it
was nothing to this encounter.

"Oh, where is he? What has happened?" she cried.

"Nothing has happened," I said calmly, determining at last to brazen it
out. I could not tell her the truth. "My name is Henry Wilton."

She looked at me in anger a moment, and then a shadow of dread and
despair settled over her face.

I was tempted beyond measure to throw myself on her mercy and tell all.
The subtle sympathy that she inspired was softening my resolution. Yet,
as I looked into her eyes, her face hardened, and her wrath blazed
forth once more.

"Go!" she said. "I hope I may never see you again!" And she turned and
ran swiftly up the stair. I thought I heard a sob, but whether of anger
or sorrow I knew not.

And I went out into the night with a heavier load of depression than I
had borne since I entered the city.



The wind blew strong and moist and salt from the western ocean as I
walked down the steps into the semi-darkness of Pine Street. But it was
powerless to cool the hot blood that surged into my cheeks in the
tumult of emotion that followed my dismissal by Luella Knapp. I was
furious at the poor figure I had cut in her sight, at the insults I had
been forced to bear without reply, and at the hopelessness of setting
myself right. Yet, more than all was I sick at heart at the dreadful
task before me. My spirit was bleeding from every stab that this girl
had dealt me; yet I had to confess that her outburst of rage had
challenged my admiration even more than her brightness in the hour that
had gone before. How could I go through with my work? How could I bear
to overwhelm her with the sorrow and disgrace that must crush on her if
I proved to the world the awful facts that were burned on my brain?

Resolve, shame, despair, fought with each other in the tumult in my
mind as I passed between the bronze lions and took my way down the
street. I was called out of my distractions with a sudden start as
though a bucket of cold water had been thrown over me. I had proceeded
not twenty feet when I saw two dark forms across the street. They had,
it struck me, been waiting for my appearance, for one ran to join the
other and both hastened toward the corner as though to be ready to meet

I could not retreat to the house of the Wolf that loomed forbiddingly
behind me. There was nothing to do but to go forward and trust to my
good fortune, and I shifted my revolver to the side-pocket of my
overcoat as I stepped briskly to the corner. Then I stopped under the
lamp-post to reconnoiter.

The two men who had roused my apprehensions did not offer to cross the
street, but slackened their pace and strolled slowly along on the other
side. I noted that it seemed a long way between street-lamps
thereabouts. I could see none between the one under which I was
standing and the brow of the hill below. Then it occurred to me that
this circumstance might not be due to the caprice of the street
department of the city government, but to the thoughtfulness of the
gentlemen who were paying such close attention to my affairs. I decided
that there were better ways to get down town than were offered by Pine

To the south the cross-street stretched to Market with an unbroken
array of lights, and as my unwary watchers had disappeared in the
darkness, I hastened down the incline with so little regard for dignity
that I found myself running for a Sutter Street car--and caught it,
too. As I swung on to the platform I looked back; but I saw no sign of
skulking figures before the car swept past the corner and blotted the
street from sight.

The incident gave me a distaste for the idea of going back to Henry
Wilton's room at this time of the night. So as Montgomery Street was
reached I stepped into the Lick House, where I felt reasonably sure
that I might get at least one night's sleep, free from the haunting
fear of the assassin.

But, once more safe, the charms of Luella Knapp again claimed the major
part of my thoughts, and when I went to sleep it was with her scornful
words ringing in my ears. I awoke in the darkness--perhaps it was in
but a few minutes--with the confused dream that Luella Knapp was seized
in the grasp of the snake-eyed Terrill, and I was struggling to come to
her assistance and seize him by his hateful throat. But, becoming calm
from this exciting vision, I slept soundly until the morning sun peeped
into the room with the cheerful announcement that a new day was born.

In the fresh morning air and the bright morning light, I felt that I
might have been unduly suspicious and had fled from harmless citizens;
and I was ashamed that I had lacked courage to return to Henry's room
as I made my way thither for a change of clothes. I thought better of
my decision, however, as I stepped within the gloomy walls of the house
of mystery, and my footfalls echoed through the chilling silence of the
halls. And I lost all regret over my night's lack of courage when I
reached my door. It was swung an inch ajar, and as I approached I
thought I saw it move.

"I'm certain I locked it," was my inward comment.

I stopped short and hunted my revolver from my overcoat pocket. I was
nervous for a moment, and angry at the inattention that might have cost
me my life.

"Who's there?" I demanded.

No reply.

I gave a knock on the door at long reach.

There was no sound and I gave it a push that sent it open while I
prudently kept behind the fortification of the casing. As no
developments followed this move, I peeped through the door in cautious
investigation. The room was quite empty, and I walked in.

The sight that met my eyes was astonishing. Clothes, books, papers,
were scattered over the floor and bed and chairs. The carpet had been
partly ripped up, the mattress torn apart, the closet cleared out, and
every corner of the room had been ransacked.

It was clear to my eye that this was no ordinary case of robbery. The
search, it was evident, was not for money and jewelry alone, and
bulkier property had been despised. The men who had torn the place to
pieces must, I surmised, have been after papers of some kind.

I came at once to the conclusion that I had been favored by a visit
from my friends, the enemy. As they had failed to find me in, they had
looked for some written memoranda of the object of their search.

I knew well that they had found nothing among the clothing or papers
that Henry had left behind. I had searched through these myself, and
the sole document that could bear on the mystery was at that moment
fast in my inside pocket. I was inclined to scout the idea that Henry
Wilton had hidden anything under the carpet, or in the mattress, or in
any secret place. The threads of the mystery were carried in his head,
and the correspondence, if there had been any, was destroyed.

As I was engaged in putting the room to rights, the door swung back,
and I jumped to my feet to face a man who stood on the threshold.

"Hello!" he cried. "House-cleaning again?"

It was Dicky Nahl, and he paused with a smile on his face.

"Ah, Dicky!" I said with an effort to keep out of my face and voice the
suspicions I had gained from the incidents of the visit to the Borton
place. "Entirely unpremeditated, I assure you."

"Well, you're making a thorough job of it," he said with a laugh.

"Fact is," said I ruefully, "I've been entertaining angels--of the
black kind--unawares. I was from home last night, and I find that
somebody has made himself free with my property while I was away."

"Whew!" whistled Dicky. "Guess they were after you."

I gave Dicky a sidelong glance in a vain effort to catch more of his
meaning than was conveyed by his words.

"Shouldn't be surprised," I replied dryly, picking up an armful of
books. "I'd expect them to be looking for me in the book-shelf, or
inside the mattress-cover, or under the carpet."

Dicky laughed joyously.

"Well, they did rather turn things upside down," he chuckled. "Did they
get anything?" And he fell to helping me zealously.

"Not that I can find out," I replied. "Nothing of value, anyhow."

"Not any papers, or anything of that sort?" asked Dicky anxiously.

"Dicky, my boy," said I; "there are two kinds of fools. The other is
the man who writes his business on a sheet of paper and forgets to burn

Dicky grinned merrily.

"Gad, you're getting a turn for epigram! You'll be writing for the
_Argonaut_, first we know."

"Well, you'll allow me a shade of common sense, won't you?"

"I don't know," said Dicky, considering the proposition doubtfully. "It
might have been awkward if you had left anything lying about. But if
you had real good sense you'd have had the guards here. What are you
paying them for, anyhow?"

I saw difficulties in the way of explaining to Dicky why I had not
ordered the guards on duty.

"Oh, by the way," said Dicky suddenly, before a suitable reply had come
to me; "how about the scads--spondulicks--you know? Yesterday was pay-
day, but you didn't show up."

I don't know whether my jaw dropped or not. My spirits certainly did.

"By Jove, Dicky!" I exclaimed, catching my breath. "It slipped my mind,
clean. I haven't got at our--ahem--banker, either."

I saw now what that mysterious money was for--or a part of it, at all
events. What I did not see was how I was to get it, and how to pay it
to my men.

"That's rough," said Dicky sympathetically. "I'm dead broke."

It would appear then that Dicky looked to me for pay, whether or not he
felt bound to me in service.

"There's one thing I'd like explained before a settlement," said I
grimly, as I straightened out the carpet; "and that is the little
performance for my benefit the other night."

Dicky cocked his head on one side, and gave me an uneasy glance.

"Explanation?" he said in affected surprise.

"Yes," said I sternly. "It looked like a plant. I was within one of
getting a knife in me."

"What became of you?" inquired Dicky. "We looked around for you for an
hour, and were afraid you had been carried off."

"That's all right, Dicky," I said. "I know how I got out. What I want
to know is how I got in--taken in."

"I don't know," said Dicky anxiously. "I was regularly fooled, myself.
I thought they were fishermen, all right enough, and I never thought
that Terrill had the nerve to come in there. I was fooled by his
disguise, and he gave the word, and I thought sure that Richmond had
sent him." Dicky had dropped all banter, and was speaking with the tone
of sincerity.

"Well, it's all right now, but I don't want any more slips of that
sort. Who was hurt?"

"Trent got a bad cut in the side. One of the Terrill gang was shot. I
heard it was only through the arm or leg, I forget which."

I was consumed with the desire to ask what had become of Borton's, but
I suspected that I was supposed to know, and prudently kept the
question to myself.

"Well, come along," said I. "The room will do well enough now. Oh,
here's a ten, and I'll let you know as soon as I get the rest. Where
can I find you?"

"At the old place," said Dicky; "three twenty-six."

"Clay?" I asked in desperation. Dicky gave me a wondering look as
though he suspected my mind was going.

"No--Geary. What's the matter with you?"

"Oh, to be sure. Geary Street, of course. Well, let me know if anything
turns up. Keep a close watch on things."

Dicky looked at me in some apparent perplexity as I walked up the stair
to my Clay Street office, but gave only some laughing answer as he
turned back.

But I was in far from a laughing humor myself. The problem of paying
the men raised fresh prospects of trouble, and I reflected grimly that
if the money was not found I might be in more danger from my unpaid
mercenaries than from the enemy.

Ten o'clock passed, and eleven, with no sign from Doddridge Knapp, and
I wondered if the news I had carried him of the activities of Terrill
and of Decker had disarranged his plans.

I tried the door into Room 16. It was locked, and no sound came to my
ears from behind it.

"I should really like to know," I thought to myself, "whether Mr.
Doddridge Knapp has left any papers in his desk that might bear on the
Wilton mystery."

I tried my keys, but none of them fitted the lock. I gave up the
attempt--indeed, my mind shrank from the idea of going through my
employer's papers--but the desire of getting a key that would open the
door was planted in my brain.

Twelve o'clock came. No Doddridge Knapp had appeared, and I sauntered
down to the Exchange to pick up any items of news. It behooved me to be
looking out for Doddridge Knapp's movements. If he had got another
agent to carry out his schemes, I should have to prepare my lines for
attack from another direction.

Wallbridge was just coming rapidly out of the Exchange.

"No," said the little man, mopping the perspiration from his shining
head, "quiet as lambs to-day. Their own mothers wouldn't have known the
Board from a Sunday-school."

I inquired about Omega.

"Flat as a pancake," said the little man. "Nothing doing."

"What! Is it down?" I exclaimed with some astonishment.

"Lord bless you, no!" said Wallbridge, surprised in his turn. "Strong
and steady at eighty, but we didn't sell a hundred shares to-day. Well,
I'm in a rush. Good-by, if you don't want to buy or sell." And he
hurried off without waiting for a reply.

So I was now assured that Doddridge Knapp had not displaced me in the
Omega deal. It was a recess to prepare another surprise for the Street,
and I had time to attend to a neglected duty.

The undertaker's shop that held the morgue looked hardly less gloomy in
the afternoon sun than in the light of breaking day in which I had left
it when I parted from Detective Coogan. The office was decorated
mournfully to accord with the grief of friends who ordered the coffins,
or the feelings of the surviving relatives on settling the bills.

"I am Henry Wilton," I explained to the man in charge. "There was a
body left here by Detective Coogan to my order, I believe."

"Oh, yes," he said: "What do you want done with it?"

I explained that I wished to arrange to have it deposited in a vault
for a time, as I might carry it East.

"That's easy done," he said; and he explained the details. "Would you
like to see the body?" he concluded. "We embalmed it on the strength of
Coogan's order."

I shrank from another look at the battered form. The awfulness of the
tragedy came upon me with hardly less force than in the moment when I
had first faced the mangled and bleeding body on the slab in the dead-
room. Again I saw the scene in the alley; again his last cry for help
rang in my ears; again I retraced the dreadful experiences of the
night, and stood in the dim horror of the morgue with the questioning
voice of the detective echoing beside me; and again did that wolf-face
rise out of the lantern-flash over the body of the man whose death it
had caused.

The undertaker was talking, but I knew not what he said. I was shaking
with the horror and grief of the situation, and in that moment I
renewed my vow to have blood for blood and life for life, if law and
justice were to be had.

"We'll take it out any time," said the undertaker, with a decorous
reflection of my grief upon his face. "Would you like to accompany the

I decided that I would.

"Well, there's nothing doing now. We can start as soon as we have
sealed the casket."

"As soon as you can. There's nothing to wait for."

The ride to the cemetery took me through a part of San Francisco that I
had not yet seen. Flying battalions of fog advanced swiftly upon us as
we faced the West, and the day grew pale and ghostlike. The gray masses
were pouring fast over the hills toward which we struggled, and the
ranks thickened as we drew near the burial-place.

I paid little attention to the streets through which we passed. My mind
was on the friend whose name I had taken, whose work I was to do. I was
back with him in our boyhood days, and lived again for the fleeting
minutes the life we had lived in common; and the resolve grew stronger
on me that his fate should be avenged.

And yet a face came between me and the dead--a proud face, with varying
moods reflected upon it, now gay, now scornful, now lighted with
intelligence and mirth, now blazing with anger. But it was powerless to
shake my resolve. Not even Luella Knapp should stand between me and

"There's the place," said the undertaker, pointing to the vault. "I'll
have it opened directly."

The scene was in accord with my feelings. The gray day gave a somber
air to the trees and flowers that grew about. The white tombstones and
occasional monuments to be seen were sad reminders of mortality.

Below me stretched the city, half-concealed by the magic drapery of the
fog that streamed through it, turning it from a place of wood and stone
into a fantastic illusion, heavy with gloom and sorrow.

It was soon over. The body of Henry Wilton was committed to the vault
with the single mourner looking on, and we drove rapidly back in the
failing light.

I had given my address at the undertaker's shop, and the hack stopped
in front of my house of mystery before I knew where we were. Darkness
had come upon the place, and the street-lamps were alight and the gas
was blazing in the store-windows along the thoroughfares. As I stepped
out of the carriage and gazed about me, I recognized the gloomy doorway
and its neighborhood that had greeted me on my first night in San

As I was paying the fare, a stout figure stepped up to me.

"Ah, Mr. Wilton, it's you again."

I turned in surprise. It was the policeman I had met on my first night
in San Francisco.

"Oh, Corson, how are you?" I said heartily, recognizing him at last. I
felt a sense of relief in the sight of him. The place was not one to
quiet my nerves after the errand from which I had just come.

"All's well, sor, but I've a bit of paper for ye." And after some
hunting he brought it forth. "I was asked to hand this to ye."

I took it in wonder. Was there something more from Detective Coogan? I
tore open the envelope and read on its inclosure:

"Kum tonite to the house. Shure if youre life is wurth savein.

"Muther Borton."



I studied the note carefully, and then turned to Policeman Corson.

"When did she give you this--and where?"

"A lady?" said Corson with a grin. "Ah, Mr. Wilton, it's too sly she is
to give it to me. 'Twas a boy askin' for ye. 'Do you know him?' says
he. 'I do that,' says I. 'Where is he?' says he. 'I don't know,' says
I. 'Has 'e a room?' says he. 'He has,' says I. 'Where is it?' says he.
'What's that to you?' says I--"

"Yes, yes," I interrupted. "But where did he get the note?"

"I was just tellin' ye, sor," said the policeman amiably. "He shoves
the note at me ag'in, an' says he, 'It's important,' says he. 'Go up
there,' says I. 'Last room, top floor, right-hand side.' Before I comes
to the corner up here, he's after me ag'in. 'He's gone,' says he. 'Like
enough,' says I. 'When'll he be back?' says he. 'When the cows come
home, sonny,' says I. 'Then there'll be the divil to pay,' says he. I

Book of the day: