Part 4 out of 6
The rest of his sentence was lost in a suppressed scream from Luella. I
turned and darted before her, just in time to face three Chinese
ruffians who were hastening down the passage. The nearest of the trio,
a tall dark savage with a deep scar across his cheek, was just reaching
out his hand to seize Luella when I sprang forward and planted a blow
square upon his chin. He fell back heavily, lifted almost off his feet
by my impact, and lay like a log on the floor.
The other two ruffians halted irresolute for an instant, and I drew my
revolver. In the faint light of the passage I could scarcely see their
villainous faces. The countenance of the coolie is not expressive at
best, but I could feel, rather than see, the stolid rascality of their
appearance. Their wish seemed to be to take me alive if possible. After
a moment of hesitation there was a muttered exclamation and one of the
desperadoes drew his hand from his blouse.
"Oh!" cried Luella. "He's got a knife!"
Before he could make another movement I fired once, twice, three times.
There was a scramble and scuffle in the passageway, and the smoke
rolled thick in front, blotting out the scene that had stood in
silhouette before us.
Fearful of a rush from the Chinese, I threw one arm about Luella, and,
keeping my body between her and possible attack, guided her to the
stair that led upward at nearly right angles from the passage. She was
trembling and her breath came short, but her spirit had not quailed.
She shook herself free as I placed her on the first step.
"Have you killed them?" she asked quietly.
"I hope so," I replied, looking cautiously around the corner to see the
results of my fusillade. The smoke had spread into a thin haze through
"There's one fellow there," I said. "But it's the one I knocked down."
"Can't you see the others?" inquired Luella.
"No more in sight," said I, after a bolder survey. "They've run away."
"Oh, I'm glad," said Luella. "I should have seen them always if you had
"I shouldn't have minded giving them something to remember," said I,
vexed at my poor display of marksmanship, but feeling an innate
conviction that I must have hit them.
"What on earth did they attack us for?" exclaimed Luella indignantly.
"We hadn't hurt anything."
Before I could reply to Luella's question, a tattoo was beaten upon the
door and a muffled shout came from the other side. I stepped down from
the stair to listen.
"Are you hurt?" shouted Corson. "What's the matter?"
"No damage," I returned. "I drove them off."
Corson shouted some further words, but they were lost in a sudden
murmur of voices and a scuffle of feet that arose behind.
"Look out!" cried Luella peremptorily. "Come back here!"
I have said that the passage opened into a little court, and at the end
a lamp gave light to the court and the passage.
As I turned I saw a confusion of men pouring into the open space and
heading for the passage. They were evidently Chinese, but in the gleam
of the lamp I was sure I saw the evil face and snake-eyes of Tom
Terrill. He was wrapped in the Chinese blouse, but I could not be
mistaken. Then with a chorus of yells there was the crack of a pistol,
and a bullet struck the door close to my ear.
It was all done in an instant. Before the sound of the shot I dropped,
and then made a leap for the stair.
"Oh!" cried Luella anxiously; "were you hit?"
"No, I'm all right," I said, "but it was a close shave. The gang means
"Go up the stairs, and find a way out or a place to hide," said Luella
excitedly. "Give me the pistol. They won't hurt me. It's you they're
after. Go, now."
Her tone was the tone of the true daughter of the Wolf.
"Thank you, Miss Knapp. I have a pressing engagement here with a lady,
and I expect to meet Mr. Corson in a few minutes."
I stooped on an impulse and kissed the back of her gloved hand, and
murmured, "I couldn't think of leaving."
"Well, tell me something I can do," she said.
I gave her my smaller revolver. "Hand that to me when I want it," I
said. "If I'm killed, get up the stairs and defend yourself with it.
Don't fire unless you have to. We are short of ammunition." I had but
three shots in the large six-shooter.
"Are they coming?" asked Luella, as the wild tumult of shouts stilled
for a moment and a single voice could be heard.
I peered cautiously around the corner.
"There's a gentleman in a billycock hat who's rather anxious to have
them lead the way," I said; "but they seem to prefer listening to
The gentleman whose voice was for war I discovered to be my snake-eyed
friend. He seemed to be having difficulty with the language, and was
eking out his Pidgin-English with pantomime.
"There!" cried Luella with a start; "what's that?"
A heavy blow shook the walls of the building and sounded through the
"Good!" I said. "If our friends yonder are going to make trouble they
must do it at once. Corson's got an ax, and the door will be down first
"Thank Heaven!" whispered Luella. And then she began to tremble.
The blows followed fast upon each other, but suddenly they were drowned
in a chorus of yells, and a volley of revolver shots sent the bullets
spatting against the door.
"Look out, Miss Knapp," I said. "They're coming. Stand close behind me,
and crouch down if they get this far."
I could feel her straighten and brace herself once more behind me as I
bent cautiously around the corner.
The band was advancing with a frightful din, but was making more noise
than speed. Evidently it had little heart for its job.
I looked into the yelling mob for the snake-eyed agent of Doddridge
Knapp, but could not single him out.
I dared wait no longer. Aiming at the foremost I fired twice at the
advancing assailants. There were shouts and screams of pain in answer,
and the line hesitated. I gave them the remaining cartridge, and,
seizing the smaller weapon from Luella, fired as rapidly as I could
pull the trigger.
The effect was instantaneous. With a succession of howls and curses the
band broke and ran--all save one man, who leaped swiftly forward with a
long knife in his hand.
It would have gone hard with me if he had ever reached me, for he was a
large and powerful fellow, and my last shot was gone. But in the dark
and smoky passage he stumbled over the prostrate body of the first
desperado whom I had been fortunate enough to knock down, and fell
sprawling at full length almost at my feet.
With one leap I was on his back, and with a blow from the revolver I
had quieted him, wrenched the knife from his hand, and had the point
resting on his neck.
Luella gave a scream.
"Oh!" she cried, "are you hurt?"
"No," I said lightly, "but I don't think this gentleman is feeling very
well. He's likely to have a sore head for a day or two."
"Come back here," said Luella in a peremptory tone. "Those men may come
again and shoot you."
"I don't think so," said I. "The door is coming down. But, anyhow, I
can't leave our friend here. Lie still!" I growled, giving the captive
a gentle prod in the neck with the point of his knife to emphasize my
desire to have peace and quiet between us.
I heard him swear under his breath. The words were foreign, but there
was no mistaking the sentiment behind them.
"You aren't killing him are you?" inquired Luella anxiously.
"I think it might be a service to the country," I confessed, "but I'll
save him for the hangman."
"You needn't speak so regretfully," laughed Luella, with a little
return of her former spirit. "But here our people come."
The ax had been plied steadily on the stubborn planks all through the
conflict and its sequel. But the iron-bound beams and heavy lock had
been built to resist police raids, and the door came down with
At last it was shaking and yielding, and almost as Luella spoke it
swayed, bent apart, and broke with a crash, and with a babel of shouts
Corson, Porter, Barkhouse and Wainwright, with two more policemen,
poured through the opening.
"Praise the powers, you're safe!" cried Corson, wringing my hand, while
the policemen took the prostrate Chinese in charge. "And is the young
"No harm done," said Luella. "Mr. Wilton is quite a general."
"I can't think what's got into the scoundrelly highbinders," said
Corson apologetically. "It's the first time I ever knew anything of the
kind to happen." And he went on to explain that while the Chinese
desperado is a devil to fight among his own kind, he does not interfere
with the white man.
I called my men aside and spoke sharply.
"You haven't obeyed orders," I said. "You, Porter, and you, Barkhouse,
were to keep close by me to-night. You didn't do it, and it's only by
good luck that the young lady and I were not killed. You, Wainwright,
were to follow Tom Terrill. I saw Terrill just now in a gang of
Chinese, and you turn up on the other side of a barred door."
Porter and Barkhouse looked sheepish enough, but Wainwright protested:
"I was following Terrill when he gets into a gang of highbinders, and
goes into one of these rooms over here a ways. I waits a while for him,
and then starts to look around a bit, and first I knows, I runs up
against Porter here hunting for an ax, and crazy as a loon, saying as
how you was murdered, and they had got to save you."
"Well, just keep close to me for the rest of the night, and we'll say
no more about it. There's no great damage done--nothing but a sore
knuckle." I was feeling now the return effects of my blow on the
coolie's chin. I felt too much in fault myself to call my attendants
very sharply to task. It was through me that Luella had come into
danger, and I had to confess that I had failed in prudence and had come
near to paying dear for it.
"I don't understand this, Mr. Wilton," said Corson in confidential
perplexity. "I don't see why the haythen were after yez."
"I saw--I saw Tom Terrill," said I, stumbling over the name of
Doddridge Knapp. I determined to keep the incident of his appearance to
"I don't see how he worked it," said Corson with a shake of the head.
"They don't like to stand against a white man. It's a quare tale he
must have told 'em, and a big sack he must have promised 'em to bring
'em down on ye. Was it for killin' ye they was tryin', or was they for
catchin' yez alive?"
"They were trying to take us alive at first, I think, but the bullets
whistled rather close for comfort."
"I was a little shaky myself, when they plunked against the door," said
Corson with a smile.
"Oh, Mr. Wilton," said Mrs. Bowser, "it was awful of you--for it was so
frightfully improper to get behind that locked door, to say nothing of
throwing us all into conniptions with firing guns, and calling for
axes, and highbinders, and police, and Heaven knows what all--and what
are highbinders, Mr. Wilton? And it's a blessing we have our dear
Luella safe with us again. I was near fainting all the time, and it's a
mercy I had a smelling bottle."
"Dear Luella" looked distressed, and while Corson was attempting to
explain to Mrs. Bowser the nature of the blackmailing bands of the
Chinese criminal element, Luella said:
"Please get us out of this. I can't stand it."
I had marveled at her calm amid the excited talk of those about her,
but I saw now that it was forced by an effort of her will. She was
"Take my arm," I said. "Mr. Corson will lead the way." I signed to
Porter to go ahead and to Barkhouse and Wainwright to follow me. "It's
very close here."
"It's very ridiculous of me," said Luella, with an hysterical laugh,
"but I'm a little upset."
"I dare say you're not used to it," I suggested dryly.
Luella gave me a quick glance.
"No, are you? It's not customary in our family," she said with an
attempt at gaiety.
I thought of the wolf-figure who had come out of the opium-den, and the
face framed in the lantern-flash of the alley, and was silent. Perhaps
the thought of the scene of the passage had come to her, too, for she
shuddered and quickened her step as though to escape.
"Do you want to go through the theater?" asked Corson.
"No--no," whispered Luella, "get me home at once."
"We have seen enough sights for the evening, I believe," said I.
Mrs. Bowser was volubly regretful, but declined Corson's offer to
chaperon her through a night of it.
On the way home Luella spoke not a word, but Mrs. Bowser filled the
time with a detailed account of her emotions and sensations while
Corson and his men were searching for us and beating down the door. And
her tale was still growing when the carriage pulled up before the
bronze lions that guarded the house of the Wolf, and I handed the
ladies up the steps.
At the door Luella held out her hand impulsively.
"I wish I knew whom to thank--but I do thank him--for my safety--
perhaps for my life. Believe me--I am grateful to a brave man."
I felt the warm clasp of her fingers for a moment, and then with a
flash of her eyes that set my blood on fire she was gone, and I was
staggering down Doddridge Knapp's steps in a tumult of emotions that
turned the dark city into the jeweled palaces of the genii peopled with
But there was a bitter in the sweet. "I wish I knew whom to thank." The
bitter grew a little more perceptible as her phrases stamped themselves
on my brain. I blessed and cursed at once the day that had brought me
A DEAL IN STOCKS
The wolf-face, seamed with hatred and anger, and hideous with evil
passions, that had glowered for a moment out of the smoky frame of the
Chinese den, was still haunting me as I forced myself once more to
return to the office. Wednesday morning had come, and I was due to meet
Doddridge Knapp. But as I unlocked the door, I took some comfort in the
reflection that I could hardly be more unwilling to meet the Wolf than
he must be to meet me.
I had scarcely settled myself in my chair when I heard the key turn in
the lock. The door swung open, and in walked Doddridge Knapp.
I had thought to find at least some trace of the opium debauch through
which I had gained the clue to his strange and contradictory acts--some
mark of the evil passions that had written their story upon his face at
the meeting in the passage. But the face before me was a mask that
showed no sign of the experiences through which he had passed. For all
that appeared, he might have employed the time since I had left here
two days before in studying philosophy and cultivating peace and good-
will with his neighbors.
"Ah, Wilton," he said affably, rubbing his hands with a purring growl.
"You're ready for a hard day's work, I hope."
"Nothing would please me better," I said cheerfully, my repugnance
melting away with the magnetism of his presence. "Is the black flag up
He looked at me in surprise for an instant and then growled, still in
"'No quarter' is the motto to-day." And I listened closely as the King
of the Street gave his orders for the morning.
I marveled at the openness and confidence with which he seemed to treat
me. There was no trace nor suggestion in his demeanor to-day of the man
who sought my life by night. And I shuddered at the power of the Black
Smoke to change the nature of this man to that of a demon. He trusted
me with secrets of his campaign that were worth millions to the market.
"You understand now," he said at the end of his orders, "that you are
to sell all the Crown Diamond that the market will take, and buy all
the Omega that you can get below one hundred."
"We'll feed Decker about as big a dose as he can swallow, I reckon,"
said the King of the Street grimly.
"One thing," I said, "I'd like to know if I'm the only one operating
The King of the Street drew his bushy brows down over his eyes and
scowled at me a moment.
"You're the only one in the big Board," he said at last. "There are men
in the other Boards, you understand."
I thought I understood, and sallied forth for the battle. At Doddridge
Knapp's suggestion I arranged to do my business through three brokers,
and added Lattimer and Hobart to Wallbridge, and Bockstein and Eppner.
Bockstein greeted me affably:
"Velgome to de marget vonce more, Mr.--, Mr.--"
"Wilton," said Eppner, assisting his partner in his high, dry voice,
with cold civility. His blue-black eyes regarded me as but a necessary
part of the machinery of commerce.
I gave my orders briefly.
"Dot is a larch order," said Bockstein dubiously.
"You don't have to take it," I was about to retort, when Eppner's high-
pitched voice interrupted:
"It's all right. The customary margin is enough."
Wallbridge was more enthusiastic.
"You've come just in the nick of time," said the stout little man,
swabbing his bald head from force of habit, though the morning was
chill. "The market has been drier than a fish-horn and duller than a
foggy morning. You saved me from a trip to Los Angeles. I should have
been carried off by my wife in another day."
"You have got Gradgrind's idea of a holiday," I laughed.
"Gradgrind, Gradgrind?" said the little man reflectively. "Don't know
him. He's not in the market, I reckon. Oh, I'm death on holidays! I
come near dying every day the Board doesn't meet. When it shut up shop
after the Bank of California went to the wall, I was just getting ready
to blow my brains out for want of exercise, when they posted the notice
that it was to open again."
I laughed at the stout broker's earnestness, and told him what I wanted
"Whew!" he exclaimed, "you're in business this time, sure. Well, this
is just in my line."
Lattimer and Hobart, after a polite explanation of their rules in
regard to margins, and getting a certified check, became obsequiously
anxious to do my bidding.
I distributed the business with such judgment that I felt pretty sure
our plans could not in any way be exposed, and took my place at the
rail in the Boardroom.
The opening proceedings were comparatively tame. I detected a sad
falling-off in the quality and quantity of lung power and muscular
activity among the buyers and sellers in the pit.
At the call of Confidence, Lattimer and Hobart began feeding shares to
the market. Confidence dropped five points in half a minute, and the
pit began to wake up. There was a roar and a growl that showed me the
animals were still alive.
The Decker forces were taken by surprise, but with a hasty consultation
came gallantly to the rescue of their stock. At the close of the call
they had forced it back and one point higher than at the opening.
This, however, was but a skirmish of outposts. The fighting began at
the call of Crown Diamond.
It opened at sixty-three. The first bid was hardly made when with a
bellow Wallbridge charged on Decker's broker, filled his bid, and
offered a thousand shares at sixty-two.
There was an answering roar from a hundred throats and a mob rushed on
Wallbridge with the apparent intent of tearing him limb from limb.
Wallbridge's offer was snapped up at once, but a few weak-kneed holders
of the stock threw small blocks on the market.
These were taken up at once, and Decker's brokers were bidding sixty-
At this Eppner gave a blast like a cornet, and, waving his arms
frantically, plunged into a small-sized riot. I had entrusted him with
five thousand shares of Crown Diamond to be sold for the best price
possible, and he was feeding the opposition judiciously. The price
wavered for a moment, but rallied and reached sixty-six.
At this I signaled to Wallbridge, and with another bellow he started an
opposition riot on the other side of the room from Eppner, and fed
Crown Diamond in lumps to the howling forces of the Decker combination.
The battle was raging furiously.
I had no wish to break the price of the stock. I was intent only at
selling shares at a good price, but I had convinced the Decker forces
that there was a raid on the stock, and they had rallied to protect it
at whatever cost.
The price see-sawed between sixty-six and sixty-five, and amid a tumult
of yells and shouts I sold twelve thousand shares. At last they were
gone, but the offers still continued.
Outsiders had become scared at the persistent selling, and were trying
to realize before a break should come, and in spite of Decker's efforts
the price ran down to sixty.
There was a final rally of the Decker forces, and the call closed with
Crown Diamond at sixty-three.
I was pleased at the result. Doddridge Knapp had intrusted me with the
shares with the remark, "I paid fifty for 'em and they're not worth a
tinker's dam. I got an inside look at the mine when I was in Virginia
City. Feed Decker all he'll take at sixty. He's been fooled on the
thing, and I reckon he'll buy a good lot of them at that."
I had sold Doddridge Knapp's entire lot of the stock at an average of
over sixty-five, had netted him a profit of fifteen dollars a share,
and had, for a second purpose, served the plan of campaign by drawing
the enemy's resources to the defense of Crown Diamond and weakening, by
so much, his power of operating elsewhere.
By the time Omega was reached I had the plans fully in hand.
The assault on Crown Diamond had caused a nervous feeling all along the
line, and under rumors of a bear raid there had been a drop of several
Omega felt the results of the nervousness and depression, and opened at
There was a moment's buzz--the quiet of a crowd expectant of great
events. Then Wallbridge charged into the throng with a roar. I could
not distinguish his words, but I knew that he was carrying out my order
to drop five thousand shares on the market. At his cry there was an
answering roar, and the scene upon the floor turned to a riot. Men
rushed hither and thither, screaming, shouting, waving their arms,
pushing, jostling, tearing each other to get into the midst of the
throng, whirling about, mobbing first one and then another of the
leather-lunged leaders who furnished at each moment fresh centers for
the outbreak of disorder. How the market was going, I could only guess.
At Wallbridge's onset I saw Lattimer and Eppner make a dive for him and
then separate, following other shouting, screaming madmen who
pirouetted about the floor and tried to save themselves from a mobbing.
I heard seventy shouted from one direction, but could not make out
whether it set the price of the stock or not. The din was too confusing
for me to follow the course of events.
At last Wallbridge staggered up to the rail, flushed, collarless and
panting for breath, with his hat a hopeless wreck.
"We've done it!" he gasped in my ear. "The dogs of war are making the
fur fly down here, you bet! Don't you wish you was in it?"
"No, I don't!" I shouted decidedly. "How does it go?"
"I sold down to seventy-one--average seventy-three, I guess--and she's
piling in fit to break the floor."
"Did Lattimer and Eppner get your stock?" I could not help asking.
"They got about three thousand of it. Rosenheim got the rest."
I remembered Rosenheim as the agent of Decker, and sighed. But Lattimer
and Eppner were busy, and I had hopes.
"Where is it now?" I asked.
"Sixty-nine and a half."
I meditated an instant whether to use my authority to throw another
five thousand shares on the market. But I caught sight of Decker
opposite, pale, hawklike, just seizing an envelope from a messenger. He
tore it open, and though his face changed not a line, I felt by a
mysterious instinct that it brought assurance of the aid he sought.
"Buy every share you can get," I said promptly. "Don't get in the way
of Lattimer or Eppner. Put on steam, too."
"Two-forty on a turnpike road," said Wallbridge. And, refreshed by a
minute of rest, he gave a prolonged bellow and charged frantically for
a stout man in a white waistcoat who was doing the maniac dance across
A moment later the clamor grew louder and the excitement increased. I
heard shouts of seventy-five, seventy-eight, eighty and eighty-five.
Decker's men had entered into the bidding with energy. The sinews of
war had been recruited, and it was a battle for the possession of every
block of stock.
Thus far I had followed closely the plan laid down for me by Doddridge
Knapp, and the course of the market had agreed with the outlines of his
prophecy. But now it was going up faster than he had expected. Yet I
could do nothing but buy. I dared not set bounds to the bidding. I
dared not stop for an instant to hear how the account of purchases
stood, for it might allow Decker to get the stock that my employer
would need to give him the control of the mine. I could only grip the
railing and wait for the end of the call.
At last it came, and "Omega, one hundred and five and three-quarters"
was the closing quotation. I feverishly took the totals of my purchases
from the brokers, and gave the checks to bind them. Then I hastily made
my way through the excited throngs that blocked the entrance to the
Exchange, brought thither by the exciting news of "a boom in Omega,"
and hurried to the office.
Doddridge Knapp had not yet come, and I consumed myself with impatience
for ten minutes till I heard his key in the lock and he entered with a
calm smile on his face.
"What luck, Wilton?" was his greeting. The King of the Street, whose
millions had been staked in the game, was less excited than I who
I gave him my memoranda, and tried to read his face as he studied them.
"You did a good job with Crown Diamond," he grunted approvingly.
"Thanks," I returned. "I thought it wasn't bad for a stock that was not
"Um, yes. Decker can light his cigars with it next month."
"A million dollars' worth of cigar-lighters might be called a piece of
extravagance," I murmured.
"You'll think so if you ever buy 'em, Wilton," growled the King of the
Street feelingly. "And here is seven thousand six hundred shares of
Omega bought and five thousand sold. That scheme worked pretty well. We
made twenty-six hundred by it. Um--the price went up pretty fast."
The King of the Street looked sourly at the figures before him. "You
ought to have got more stock," he growled.
This was a shock to my self-congratulation over my success, and I gave
an inquiring "Yes?"
"As I figure it out," he said, "somebody else got seven thousand shares
and odd. There were over fifteen thousand shares sold in your Board."
I murmured that I had done my best.
"Yes, yes; I suppose so," said my employer. "But we need more."
"How much?" I asked.
"I've got a little over forty-eight thousand shares," he said slowly,
"and I must have near sixty thousand. It looks as though I'd have to
fight for them."
"Which will cost you about a million and a half at present rates," I
"I'll give you a million commission, Wilton, if you'll get them for
The King of the Street plainly did not underrate the task he had set.
"Well, Decker isn't any better off than you," I said consolingly.
"He's ten or fifteen thousand shares worse off than I am."
"And he's put a fortune into Crown Diamond, and is pretty well loaded
"True, my boy."
"And so," I argued, "he must be nearer the bottom of his sack than you
"Very good, Wilton," said the King of the Street with a quizzical look.
"But you've left one thing out. You don't happen to know that the
directors of the El Dorado Bank had a secret meeting last night and
decided to back Decker for all they are worth."
"Rather a rash proceeding," I suggested.
"Well, he had three millions of their money in his scheme, so I reckon
they thought the tail might as well follow the hide," explained my
"The only thing to do then is to get a bank yourself," I returned.
Doddridge Knapp's lips closed, and a trace of a frown was on his brows.
"Well, this isn't business," he said. "Now here is what I want," he
continued. And he gave directions for the buying at the afternoon
"Now, not over one hundred and twenty-five," was his parting
injunction. "You may not get much--I don't think you will--though I
have a scheme that may bring a reaction."
Doddridge Knapp's scheme for a reaction must have been one of the kind
that goes off backward, for Omega jumped skyward on the afternoon call,
and closed at one hundred and thirty. Rumors were flying fast that a
big bonanza, "bigger than the Consolidated Virginia," had been
discovered on the six-hundred-foot level, and the great public was
rushing to Pine Street to throw its dollars into the blind pool against
Knapp, Decker and the El Dorado bank. And I had been able to get a
scant one thousand five hundred shares when the call was over.
"I did better than you," said Doddridge Knapp, when I explained to him
the course of the session. "I found a nest of two thousand five
hundred, and gathered them in at one hundred and twenty. But that's all
right. You've done well enough--as well as I expected."
"And still eight thousand to get," I said.
"Well, we'll get them in due time, I suppose," I said cheerfully.
"We'll have 'em by Monday noon, or we won't have 'em at all," growled
"How is that?"
"You seem to have forgotten, young man, that the stock transfer books
of the Omega Company close on Monday at two o'clock."
As I had never heard this interesting piece of information before, I
could not in strictness be said to have forgotten it.
"Well, we ought to have the stock by that time," I said consolingly.
"We ought," said the King of the Street grimly, pausing in the doorway,
"but things don't always happen as they ought."
As I remembered that if things had happened as they ought Doddridge
Knapp would be in jail, I gave a hearty assent to the proposition as
the door closed behind my retreating employer.
"You really don't mean it," said Luella severely, "and it's very wrong
to say what you don't mean."
"In society?" I asked blandly. "I'm afraid you're a heretic, L----- Miss
I blushed as I stumbled over her name. She was Luella to me by night
and day, but I did not consider myself on a footing to use so thrilling
a word in her presence.
"Don't be rude," she said. "Everything has its place in society."
"Even prevarication," I assented.
"Even a polite consideration for the feelings of others," corrected
"Then you might have some consideration for mine," I said in an injured
"But we're not in society,--not just now, that is to say. We're just
friends talking together, and you're not to say what you don't mean
just for the sake of pleasing my vanity."
"Well, if we're just friends talking together--" said I, looking up in
her face. I was seated on the footstool before her, and it was very
entertaining to look at her face, so I stopped at that.
"Yes," said Luella, bending forward in her interest.
"It was the bravest and truest and most womanly girl I ever knew or
heard of. It's the kind a man would be glad to die for."
I really couldn't help it. Her hand lay very temptingly near me, and I
don't think I knew what I was doing till she said:
"Please let go of my hand."
"But he'd rather live for her," I continued boldly.
"If you don't behave yourself, I'll surrender you to Aunt Julia," said
Luella, rising abruptly and slipping to the curtains of the alcove in
which we were sitting. She looked very graceful and charming as she
stood there with one hand raised to the lace folds.
"Has she recovered?" I asked.
"What a melancholy tone! The poor dear was in bed all Tuesday, but she
took advantage of her rest to amplify her emotions."
"She has acquired a subject of conversation, at least."
"To last her for the rest of her life," laughed Luella, turning back.
"'Twill be a blood-curdling tale by the time she reaches the East once
more. And now do be sensible--no, you sit right where you are--and tell
me how it all happened, and what it was about."
I revolved for a moment the plan of a romance that would have, at
least, the merit of chaining Miss Knapp's interest. But it was gone as
I looked into her serious eyes.
"That's what I should like to know myself," I confessed candidly. Then
I added with pardonable mendacity: "I think I must have been taken for
somebody else, if it was anything more than a desperate freak of the
"Are you sure they had no interest in seeking you?" asked Luella
gravely, with a charming tremor in her voice.
Before I could reply, Mrs. Knapp's voice was in my ear, and Mrs.
Knapp's figure was in the archway of the alcove.
"Oh, you are here," she said. "I thought I heard your voices. Luella,
your father wants to see you a minute. And how do you do, Mr. Wilton?"
I greeted Mrs. Knapp cordially, though I wished that she had delayed
her appearance, and looked regretfully after Luella.
"I want to thank you for your heroism the other evening," she said.
"Oh, it was nothing," I answered lightly. "Any one would have done the
"Perhaps--but none the less we are all very grateful. If I had only
suspected that anything of the kind could have happened, I should never
have allowed them to go."
I felt rebelliously glad that she had not suspected.
"I blame myself for it all," I bowed. "It was very careless of me."
"I'm afraid so, after all the warning you have had," said Mrs. Knapp.
"But as it turned out, no harm was done," I said cheerfully.
"I suppose so," said Mrs. Knapp absently. Then she spoke with sudden
attention. "Do you think your enemies followed you there?"
I was taken aback with the vision of the Wolf figure in the grimy
passage, a fiend in the intoxication of opium, and stammered for a
"My snake-eyed friend made himself a little familiar, I'm afraid," I
"It is dreadful that these dangers should follow you everywhere," said
Mrs. Knapp with feeling. "You must be careful."
"I have developed eyes in the back of my head," I said, smiling at her
"I fear you need more than that. Now tell me how it all happened, just
as you saw it. I'm afraid Luella was a little too hysterical to give a
true account of it."
I gave her the story of the scene in the passage, with a few judicious
emendations. I thought it hardly worth while to mention Doddridge
Knapp's appearance, or a few other items that were more precious to me
than to anybody else.
When I had done Mrs. Knapp sighed.
"There must be an end of this some day," she said.
"I hope the day isn't far off," I confessed, "unless it should happen
to be the day the coroner is called on to take a particular interest in
Mrs. Knapp shuddered.
"Oh no, no--not that way."
Then after a pause, she continued: "Would you not rather attack your
dangers at once, and have them over, than to wait for them to seek
I felt a trifle uneasy at this speech. There seemed to be a suggestion
in it that I could end the whole matter by marching on my enemies, and
coming to decisive battle. I wished I knew what she was hinting at, and
how it was to be done, before I answered.
"I haven't felt any particular disposition to hunt them up," I
confessed, "but if I could cut off all the heads of the hydra at once,
it would be worth while. Anything for peace and quiet, you know."
Mrs. Knapp smiled.
"Well, there is no use challenging your fate. There is no need for you
to act, unless the boy is in danger."
"Oh, no, none at all," I replied unblushingly.
"And we'll hope that he will be kept safe until the danger has passed."
I hoped so devoutly, and said as much. And after a few more words, Mrs.
Knapp led me, feebly resisting, to Mrs. Bowser.
"Oh, Mr. Wilton," said that charming dame, "my heart goes pit-a-pat
when I see you, for it's almost like being among those dreadful
highbinders again, and how could you bring the horrid creatures down on
our dear Luella, when she might have been captured and sold into
slavery under our very eyes."
"Ah, Mrs. Bowser," said I gallantly, "I ought to have known what to
expect on bringing such a temptation before our Chinese friends. I do
not see how you escaped being carried off."
"Oh, now, Mr. Wilton," exclaimed Mrs. Bowser, retreating behind her
fan; "you are really too flattering. I must say, though, that some of
them did make dreadful eyes at me, till I felt that I should faint. And
do they really hold their slave-market right in the middle of San
Francisco? And why doesn't the president break it up, and what is the
Emancipation Proclamation for, I should like to know?"
"Madam," I replied, "the slave-market is _sub rosa_, but I advise
you to keep out of Chinatown. Some temptations are irresistible."
Mrs. Bowser giggled behind her fan and was too pleased to speak, and I
took advantage of the lull to excuse myself and make a dive into the
next room where I espied Luella.
"Yes, you may sit down here," she said carelessly. "I want to be
I was not at all certain that I was flattered to be considered amusing;
but I was willing to stay on any terms, so we fell into animated
conversation on nothing and everything. In the midst of this
entertaining situation I discovered that Mrs. Knapp was watching us,
and her face showed no easy state of mind. As I caught her eye she
moved away, and a minute later Mr. Carter appeared with,--
"Excuse me, Miss Knapp, but your mother would like to see you. She and
my wife have some conspiracy on hand."
I was pleased to see that Luella did not take the interruption
gratefully, but she surrendered her place to Mr. Carter, who talked
about the weather with a fertility of commonplaces that excited my
admiration. But as even the weather has its limits as a subject of
interest and the hour grew late, I suppressed a yawn and sought the
ladies to take my leave.
"Oh, must you go?" said Luella, rising. And, leaving Mrs. Carter to her
mother, she walked with me to the hall as though she would speak with
But once more alone, with only the hum of voices from the reception-
room as company, she fell silent, and I could think of nothing to say.
"It's very good of you to come," she said hesitatingly.
My mind went back to that other evening when I had left the door in
humiliation and bitterness of spirit. Perhaps she, too, was thinking of
"It's much better of you to wish me to come," I said with all my heart,
taking her hand.
"Come on Saturday," she said at last.
"I'm at your service at any time," I murmured.
"Don't," she said. "That's conventional. If you are to be conventional
you're not to come." And she laughed nervously. I looked into her eyes,
and then on impulse stooped and kissed the hand I still held.
"It was what I meant," I said.
She snatched her hand away, and as she did so I saw in the dim light
that hid the further end of the hall, the figure of the Wolf, massive,
dark, threatening, and my mind supplied it with all the fires of
passion and hate with which I had twice seen the face inflamed.
Luella's eyes grew large with wonder and alarm as she caught on my face
the reflection of the Wolf's coming. But as she turned to look, the
figure faded away without sound, and there was only Mrs. Knapp
appearing in the doorway; and her alarm turned to amusement.
"Oh, I was afraid you had gone," said Mrs. Knapp. "Would you mind,
Luella, looking after the guests a minute?"
Luella bowed me a good night and was gone.
"Oh, Henry," said Mrs. Knapp, "I wanted to ask you about Mr. Knapp. Is
your aid absolutely essential to his success?"
"I presume not, thought it would probably embarrass him somewhat if I
should take ship for China before morning."
As I held in the bank securities worth nearly three millions of
dollars, I believed that I spoke within bounds.
"I suppose it would do no good to try to dissuade him from his plans?"
"It would take a bolder man than I," said I with a smile at the
audacity of the idea.
Mrs. Knapp smiled sadly in response.
"Do you think, Henry," she asked hesitatingly, "do you think that Mr.
Knapp is quite himself?"
My mind leaped at the recollection of the Wolf figure in the opium-
dens. But I choked down the thought, and replied calmly:
"He certainly has a vigorous business head on his shoulders."
"I wish you could tell me about his business affairs," said Mrs. Knapp
wistfully. "But I know you won't."
"You wouldn't think much of me if I did," I said boldly.
"It would be right to tell _me_," she said. "But I mustn't keep
you standing here. Good night"
I walked down the steps, and joined my waiting guards with a budget of
new thoughts and feelings to examine.
The three days that followed were days of storm and stress in the
market; a time of steady battle in the Stock Exchange, of feints and
sallies on stocks which we did not want, of "wash sales" and bogus
bargains, of rumors on rumors and stratagems on stratagems--altogether
a harvest season for the Father of Lies.
Doddridge Knapp fought for the control of Omega, and the Decker
syndicate fought as stubbornly for the same end, I was forced to admire
the fertility of resource displayed by the King of the Street. He was
carrying on the fight with the smaller capital, yet by his attack and
defense he employed his resources to better result. The weakness of the
syndicate lay in its burden of Confidence and Crown Diamond. Doddridge
Knapp had sold out his holdings of both at a handsome profit, but, so
far from ceasing his sales of these stocks, as I had expected, he had
only begun. He suddenly developed into a most pronounced "bear," and
sold both stocks for future delivery in great blocks. He was cautious
with Confidence, but his assaults on Crown Diamond were ruthless. At
every session he sold for future delivery at lower and lower prices,
and a large contingent of those "on the Street" joined in the bear
movement. Decker and his brokers stood gallantly to the defense of
their threatened properties and bought heavily. Yet it was evident that
Omega, Crown Diamond and Confidence together made a little heavier
burden than even the El Dorado Bank could carry. In spite of their
efforts to buy everything that was offered, Crown Diamond "futures"
fell to forty, thirty, twenty-five, and even twenty, closing at the
afternoon session at twenty and three-fourths.
But the King of the Street was less successful in his manipulation of
Omega. Despite his efforts, despite the rumors that were industriously
spread about of the "pinching out" of the great veins, the price
continued to go up by leaps and bounds. The speculating public as well
as Decker and Company were reaching out for the stock, and it was
forced up ten and twenty points at a time, closing on Saturday
afternoon at three hundred and twenty-five.
"This is merry war," gasped Wallbridge, at the close of the last
session. "I wouldn't have missed this for five years of my life.
Doddridge Knapp is the boy for making the market hum when he takes the
notion. By George, we've had a picnic this week! And last Monday I
thought everything was dead, too!"
"Doddridge Knapp!" I exclaimed. "Is he in this deal, too?"
Wallbridge looked at me in a little confusion, and mopped his head with
comical abandon. Then he winked a most diabolical wink, and chuckled.
"Of course, a secret's a secret; but when the whole Street's talking
about it, you can't exactly call it a close-corporation secret," he
I assured the stout little broker solemnly that Doddridge Knapp was to
know nothing of my dealings.
"I'll do anything for a good customer like you," he gasped. "Lord, if
it wasn't for the lying, where would the market be? Dead, sir, dead!"
And Wallbridge shook his head merrily over the moral degradation of the
business that chained his thoughts by day and his dreams by night.
I joined Doddridge Knapp at the office and confided to him the fact
that the cat was out of the bag. The King of the Street looked a little
amused at the announcement.
"Good Lord, Wilton! Where are your ears?" he said. "The Street had the
whole story on Friday. Decker was sure of it on Wednesday. But I kept
under cover long enough to get a good start, and that was as much as I
"How do we stand now?" I asked. I knew that our purchases had not been
progressing very well.
"There's five hundred shares to get," said the King of the Street
thoughtfully; "five hundred and thirty-six, to be accurate."
"That's not a very promising outlook," I suggested, remembering that we
had secured only four hundred shares in the whole day's struggle.
"Well, there'll be an earthquake in the Street if we don't get them,
and maybe there'll be one if we do. Decker is likely to dump all his
shares on the market the minute we win, and it will be the devil's own
job to keep the bottom from falling out if he does."
The King of the Street then gave some brief directions.
"Now," he continued, "you are to be at the Exchange without fail, on
Monday morning. I'll be there to give you your orders. Don't be one
minute behind hand, or there may be Tophet to pay." And he emphasized
his words with an impressive growl that showed the Wolf's fangs.
"I'll be on hand," I replied.
"Well, then, go," he growled; "and see that you come with a clear head
on Monday. Keep your thirst until after the game is over."
A few hours later I was at the house of the Wolf, but I forgot to ask
for Doddridge Knapp. Luella received me with apparent indifference that
contrasted sharply with her parting, and I was piqued. Mrs. Knapp was
gracious, and sailed between us before I had received a dozen words.
"Where are your spirits to-night?" she asked railingly. "Have you left
them in lower Pine Street?"
"I have a heart for any fate," I returned lightly. "Am I too grave for
"You're always under orders to be cheerful," Luella broke in, "or at
least to explain the reason why."
"He can't explain," retorted her mother. "Mr. Knapp won't let him."
It struck me, on watching mother and daughter, that it was they who
were grave. Luella gave an occasional flash of brightness, but seemed
tired or depressed, while Mrs. Knapp appeared to struggle against some
insistent sorrow. But presently we found a subject in which Luella
roused her interest, and her bright mind and ready wit drove away the
fancy that had first assailed me. Then some caller claimed the
attention of Mrs. Knapp, and I was content to monopolize Luella's
conversation for the evening. At last I was constrained to go. Mrs.
Knapp was still busied in conversation with her visitor, and Luella
followed me once more into the hall.
Again her animation left her, and she was silent; and I, on my side,
could think of nothing to say. Then her deep gray eyes flashed upon me
a look that sent my pulses throbbing, an indefinable, pleading glance
that shook my soul.
"Can't you tell me--won't you tell me?" she said in a low tone that was
the complement of the silent speech of the eyes.
"I wish I could," I whispered.
"I know it must be right--it is right," she said in the same tone. "But
I wish that I might know. Will you not tell me?"
"I will tell you some day," I said brokenly. "Now it is another's, and
I can not. But it shall all be yours."
In another moment I know not what I should have done, so stirred and
tempted was I by her tone and look. But in an instant her manner
changed, and she exclaimed in a mocking voice:
"Now I have your promise, so I'll let you go. You'd better not linger,
or mama will certainly have some business to talk over with you." And
before I could touch her hand she was gone, and her laughing "good
night" echoed down the hall.
I was puzzled by these changes of mood, and decided that Luella Knapp
was a most unaccountable young woman. And then there dashed over me a
sickening realization of what I had done, of what I had promised, and
of how impossible it was that I should ever reveal to her the secret I
guarded. I cursed the mad folly and crime of her father, for they stood
between her and me. Yet under the subtle influence that she cast upon
me I felt the bonds of duty relaxed and slipping away. I had now to
confess to myself that I loved Luella Knapp. And she? I hoped and
feared, and ran over in my mind every incident of my later visits that
might tell in what regard I was held--the tones, the words, the manner,
that ran from deep interest to indifference. And trying to untangle the
skein, I was a good deal startled to feel a touch on my arm as I
reached the sidewalk.
"Oh, it's you, Porter, is it?" I exclaimed, on recognizing my retainer.
"Is Barkhouse here?"
"Yes, sir. An' here's Wilson with a message for you."
"A message for me! From whom?"
Wilson took me aside, and thrust an envelope into my hand.
"That come to your room--about nine o'clock, I reckon," he said.
"Leastways, that's the first we saw of it. An' Mother Borton was there,
an' she says she must see you to-night, sure. She wouldn't stay, but
says you was to come down there before you goes to bed, sure, if you
wants to keep out of trouble."
I looked at the envelope, and in the flickering light from the street-
lamp I could make out the address to Henry Wilton. By the handwriting
and by the indefinable scent that rose from the paper, I knew it for a
message from the Unknown who held for me the secrets of life and death.
AT THE BIDDING OF THE UNKNOWN
The windows of Borton's shone cheerfully, although it was past
midnight. At our cautious approach a signal was given, and with the
answering word a man appeared from the obscurity.
"All safe?" I inquired.
"It's all right," said Barkhouse. "There's a dozen men in the bar-room,
and I'm not sure there ain't some of the hounds amongst them. But
you're to go in the side door, and right up stairs."
"Two of you may keep at the foot of the stairs, just inside the door,"
I said. "You may stand watch outside, Barkhouse."
There was sound of rude song, and the clink of glass and bottle in the
bar and dining-room, as I passed through the side hall. But the door
was closed, and I saw nothing of the late revelers. In the upper
hallway Mother Borton stood by an open door, silhouetted dark and
threatening against the dim flickerings that came from the candle in
the room behind her.
I had but opened my mouth to give her word of greeting when she raised
a warning claw, and then seizing me, drew me swiftly into the room and
closed and locked the door.
"How air ye, dearie?" she said, surveying me with some apparent pride.
"You're safe and whole, ain't ye?"
As the candlelight fell on her face, she seemed older and more like a
bird of prey than ever. The nose and chin had taken a sharper cast, the
lines of her face were deeper drawn with the marks of her evil life,
and her breath was strong with the strength of water-front whisky. But
her eyes burned bright and keen as ever in their sunken sockets, with
the fire of her fevered brain behind them.
"I am safe," I said, "though I had a close shave in Chinatown."
"I heerd of it," said Mother Borton sourly. "I reckon it ain't much
good to sit up nights to tell you how to take keer of yourself. It's a
wonder you ever growed up. Your mammy must 'a' been mighty keerful
about herdin' ye under cover whenever it rained."
"I _was_ a little to blame," I admitted, "but your warning was not
thrown away. I thought I was well-guarded."
Mother Borton sniffed contemptuously.
"I s'pose you come down here alone?"
"No." And I explained the disposition of my forces.
"That's not so bad," she said. "They could git up here soon enough, I
reckon, if there was a row. But I guess you didn't think I sent for ye
jest to tell ye you was a fool in Chinatown."
I admitted that I should have expected to wait till morning for such a
piece of information.
"Well," said Mother Borton, "that ain't it. Something's up."
"And what might it be?" I inquired. "The moon?"
Mother Borton did not take this flippancy kindly. Her face grew darker
and more evil as it was framed in the dancing shadows behind her.
"You can git a knife in ye as easy as winking if I'll jest keep my
mouth shut," she cried spitefully.
"Yes," said I repentantly, putting my hand upon her arm. "But you are
my very good friend, and will tell me what I ought to know."
The creature's face lighted at my tone and action, and her eyes melted
with a new feeling.
"That I will," she said; "that I will, as if you were my own boy."
She seized my hand and held it as she spoke, and looked intently,
almost lovingly, on my face. Elsewhere I could have shivered at the
thought of her touch. Here, with the bent figure amid the gloomy
shadows of the den in which we sat, with the atmosphere of danger heavy
about us, I was moved by a glow of kindly feeling.
"I was a-listening to 'em," she continued in a low, earnest tone,
glancing around fearfully as if she had the thought that some one else
might be listening in turn. "I was a-listening, an' I heerd what they
"Who said?" I inquired.
"The ones you knows on," she returned mysteriously.
"What ones?" I persisted, though I supposed she meant to indicate some
of my energetic enemies.
Mother Borton paid no attention to my question, and continued:
"I knowed they was a-talking about you, an' they says they would cut
your liver out if they found ye there."
"And where is there?" I asked with growing interest.
"That's what I was listening to find out," said Mother Borton. "I
couldn't hear much of what they says, but I hears enough to git an
"Well?" I said inquiringly as she hesitated.
She bent forward and hissed rather than whispered:
"They've found out where the boy is!"
"Are you certain?" I asked in sudden alarm.
"Pretty sure," she said, "pretty sure. Now you won't go near the place,
will ye, dearie?" she continued anxiously.
"You forget that I haven't the first idea where the boy is hidden," I
"Oh, Lord, yes! I reckon my mind's going," grunted Mother Borton. "But
I'm afeard of their knives for ye."
"I wish I could give warning," said I, much disturbed by the
information. "The protector of the boy ought to know about this. I'm
afraid I have done wrong."
Mother Borton looked at me fixedly.
"Don't you worry, my dear. She'll know about it all right."
Again the feeling stole over me that this woman knew more than she
told. But I knew that it was useless to question her directly. I
considered a moment, and then decided to trust her with a secret which
might surprise her into admitting her knowledge.
"I suspect that she knows already. I got a note to-night," said I,
drawing from my pocket the envelope I had received from the Unknown.
Mother Borton seized it, looked for a moment at the firm, delicate hand
of the address, and drew out the sheet that it inclosed.
"Read it, dearie," she said, handing it back after a scrutiny. "I can't
tell anything but big print."
I suspected that Mother Borton was trying to deceive me, but I repeated
the words of the note:
"Send six men to 8 o'clock boat. Come with one in hack to courtyard of
the Palace Hotel at 7:40."
Mother Borton's face changed not a whit at the reading, but at the end
she nodded. "She knows," she said.
"What does it mean?" I asked. "What is to happen?"
"Don't go, dearie--you won't go, will you?"
"Yes," I said. "I must go."
"Oh," she wailed; "you may be killed. You may never come back."
"Nonsense," said I. "In broad daylight, at the, Palace Hotel? I'm much
more likely to be killed before I get home to-night."
Her earnestness impressed me, but my resolution was not shaken. Mother
Borton rested her head on the table in despair at my obstinacy.
"Well, if you will, you will," she said at last; "and an old woman's
warnings are nothing to you. But if you will put your head in the
traps, I'll do my best to make it safe after you git it there. You jist
sit still, honey." And she took the candle and went to a corner where
she seated herself at a stand.
Her shadow grew very large, and her straggling locks sent streamers of
blackness dancing on the grimy ceiling. The weird figure, thrown into
bold relief by the candle-lighted wall beyond it while all else was in
obscurity, gave an uncanny feeling that turned half to dread as I
looked upon her. What secret did she hold? What was the danger she
Mother Borton appeared to have some difficulty in arranging her words
to her liking. She seemed to be writing, but the pen did not flow
smoothly. At last she was done, and, sealing her work in an envelope,
she brought the flickering light once more to the table.
"Take that," she said, thrusting the envelope into my hand. "If you
find a one-eyed man when you git into trouble, give him that letter
I've writ ye, and it may do ye some good. It's the best I can do fer
ye. You'd better go now and git some sleep. You may need it."
I thanked Mother Borton and pressed her hand, and she held the candle
as I tiptoed down the stairs, joined my waiting guards, and went out
into the night.
The fresh, cool air of the early morning hours was grateful after the
close and tainted atmosphere of the den we had left, but I had other
things to think of than the pleasure of once more filling my lungs.
"Where are Barkhouse and Phillips?" I asked, as we turned our faces
toward the west.
Porter gave a low whistle, and, as this failed to bring an answer,
followed it with one louder and more prolonged. We listened, but no
"We'd better get out of here," said Wilson. "There's no telling what
may happen when they hear that whistle."
"Hist! What's that?" said Porter, drawing me back into a doorway.
There were running steps on the block above us, and I thought a shadow
darted from one side of the street to the other.
"There seem to be friends waiting for us," said I. "Just get a good
grip of your clubs, boys, and keep your revolvers handy in case they
think they have a call to stop us."
"Hold on," said Porter. "There's a gang of 'em there. I see a dozen of
'em, and if we're the ones they're after we had better cut for it."
"I believe you are right," said I, peering into the darkness. I could
see a confused mass, but whether of men or boxes I could only guess.
"We'll go up here, and you can cut around the other way," said Porter.
"There's no need for you to risk it."
"There's no need for any one to risk it. We'll cut together."
"This way then," said Wilson. "I know this part of town better than you
do. Run on your toes." And he darted past Borton's, and plunged into an
alley that led toward the north. Porter and I followed, as quietly as
possible, through the dark and noisome cut-off to Pacific Street.
Wilson turned toward the bay, and crossing the street at the next
corner followed the main thoroughfare to Broadway.
"I guess we're all right now," he gasped, as we turned again to the
west, "but we'd best keep to the middle of the street."
And a little later we were in sight of the house of mystery which
fronted, forbidding and gloomy as ever, on Montgomery Street.
"Where's Barkhouse?" I asked of Trent, who was on guard.
"He hasn't come in, sir. Phillips got here a bit ago, and I think he
has something to report."
As Phillips had been sent scouting with Barkhouse I thought it likely,
and called him to my room.
"No, sir, I didn't see Bob for nigh on an hour before I came back. Not
after we got to Borton's."
"I left him just outside the door," I said.
"Then you seen him after I did. I was following two fellows down to the
Den, you know, and that was the last I seen of Bob."
I understood that the Den was one of the meeting-places of the enemy.
"Did you find anything there?"
"Not a thing. The two fellows went in, but they didn't come out.
Another gang of three comes along and goes in, but none of 'em shows up
again, and I reckoned they'd gone to bed; so I takes it as a hint and
comes up here."
"I suppose it would have done no good to wait."
"You don't think Bob's been took, do you?"
I did feel uneasy over the absence of the stalwart scout, and but for
the orders I had received for the morning I should have had my forces
out to find him, or get a hostage in exchange. But as it was, I
dissembled my fears and made some reassuring reply.
At the earliest light of the morning I was once more astir, but half-
refreshed by my short and broken rest, and made my dispositions for the
day. I ordered Porter, Fitzhugh, Brown, Wilson, Lockhart and Abrams to
wait for me at the Oakland Ferry. Trent, who was still weak from his
wound, I put in charge of the home-guard, with Owens, Phillips and
Larson as his companions, and gave instructions to look for Barkhouse,
in case he did not return. Wainright I took with me, and hailing a hack
drove to the Palace Hotel.
There was a rattle of wagons and a bustle of departing guests as we
drove into the courtyard of the famous hostelry. The eight-o'clock boat
was to carry the passengers for the east-bound overland train, and the
outgoing travelers were filling the place with noise and confusion.
I stepped out of the hack, and looked about me anxiously. Was I to meet
the Unknown? or was I to take orders from some emissary of my hidden
employer? No answering eye met mine as I searched the place with eager
glance. Neither woman nor man of all the hurrying crowd had a thought
The hotel carriages rattled away, and comparative quiet once more fell
on the court. I looked impatiently about. Was there some mistake? Had
the plans been changed? But as I glanced at the clock that ticked the
seconds in the office of the hotel I saw that I had been early, and
that it was even now but twenty minutes to the hour.
The minute-hand had not swept past the figure VIII when the door
opened, there was a hurried step, and two women stood before me,
leading a child between them. Both women were closely veiled, and the
child was muffled and swathed till its features could not be seen.
One of the women was young, the other older--perhaps middle-aged. Both
were tall and well-made. I looked eagerly upon them, for one of them
must be the Unknown, the hidden employer whose task had carried Henry
Wilton to his death, who held my life in her hands, and who fought the
desperate battle with the power and hatred of Doddridge Knapp.
I was conscious of some disappointment, I could not say why. But
neither of the women filled the outline of the shadowy picture my fancy
had drawn of the Unknown. Neither gave impression of the force and
decision with which my fancy had endowed the woman who had challenged
the resources and defied the vengeance of the Wolf. So much I took to
my thoughts in the flash of an eye as they approached. It was to the
younger that I turned as the more likely to have the spirit of contest,
but it was the older who spoke.
"Here is your charge, Mr. Wilton," she said in a low, agitated voice.
As she spoke, I felt the faint suggestion of the peculiar perfume that
had greeted me from the brief letters of the Unknown.
"I am ready for orders," I said with a bow.
It was apparently a mere business matter between us. I had fancied
somehow that there had been a bond of friendship, as much as of
financial interest, between Henry Wilton and his employer, and felt the
sense of disappointment once more.
"Your orders are in this envelope," said the Unknown, hurriedly
thrusting a paper into my hand. "Drive for the boat, and read them on
the way. You have no time to lose."
The younger woman placed the child in the hack.
"Climb in, Wainwright," said I, eying the youngster unfavorably. "Will
he travel with us, ma'am? He's rather young."
"He'll go all right," said the elder woman with some agitation. "He
knows that he must. But treat him carefully. Now good-by."
"Oakland Ferry, driver," I cried, as I stepped into the hack and
slammed the door. And in a moment we were dashing out into New
Montgomery Street, and with a turn were on Market Street, rolling over
the rough cobbles toward the bay.
"Did you see him?" asked Wainwright, as the hack lurched into Market
Street and straightened its course for the ferry.
"Tom Terrill. He was behind that big pillar near the arch there. I saw
him just as the old lady spoke to you, but before I catches your eye,
he cuts and runs."
I felt of my revolver at this bit of news, and was consoled to have the
touch of it under my hand.
"I didn't see him," I said. "Keep the child between us, and shoot
anybody who tries to stop us or to climb into the hack. I must read my
"All right, sir," said Wainwright, making the child comfortable between
I tore open the envelope and drew forth the scented paper with its
familiar, firm, yet delicate handwriting, and read the words:
"Take the train with your men for Livermore. Await orders at the hotel.
Protect the boy at all hazards."
Inclosed in the sheet were gold-notes to the value of five hundred
dollars--a thoughtful detail for which I was grateful at the outset of
such an expedition. I thrust the money into my pocket and pondered upon
the letter, wondering where Livermore might be. My knowledge of the
geography of California was exceedingly scant. I knew that Oakland lay
across the bay and that Brooklyn lay close by, a part of Oakland. I
remembered a dinner at Sacramento, and knew Los Angeles on the map.
Further than this my ideas were of the most hazy character, and
Livermore was nowhere to be found in my geographical memory.
I had some thought of questioning Wainwright, who was busy trying to
make friends with the child, but reflecting that I might be supposed to
know all about it I was silent. Wainwright's efforts to get the child
to speak were without success. The little thing might from its size
have been five years old, but it was dumb--frightened, as I supposed,
by the strangeness of the situation, and would speak no word.
This, then, was the mysterious boy whose fate was linked so closely
with my own; about whose body battled the hirelings of Doddridge Knapp
and of my unknown employer; for whom murder had been done, and for whom
perhaps many now living were to give up their lives.
Who was he? Whence had he come? What interests were bound up in his
life? Why was his body the focus of plot and counterplot, and its
possession disputed with a fierce earnestness that stopped at no crime?
Perhaps, could he be got to talk, the key of the mystery might be put
in my hands. Out of the mouth of the babe I might learn the secret that
had racked my brain for days and weeks.
And why was he put thus in my charge? What was I to do with him?
Whither was I to carry him? I reproached myself that I had not stopped
the Unknown to ask more questions, to get more light on the duties that
were expected of me. But the hack on a sudden pulled up, and I saw that
we were before the long, low, ugly wooden building that sat square
across Market Street as the gateway to San Francisco through which the
tide of travel must pass to and from the Golden City.
"Look out on both sides, Wainwright," I cautioned. "You carry the boy
and I'll shoot if there's any trouble. See that you keep him safe."
There were nearly ten minutes before the boat left, but the hurry for
tickets, the rush to check baggage, the shouts of hackmen and
expressmen, the rattle and confusion of the coming and departing
street-cars that centered at the ferry, made us inconspicuous among the
throng as we stepped out of the hack.
"Here Fitzhugh, Brown," I said, catching sight of two of my retainers,
"get close about. Have you seen anything--_any_ signs of the
"I haven't," said Fitzhugh, "but Abrams thought he saw Dotty Ferguson
over by the Fair Wind saloon there. Said he cut up Clay Street before
the rest of us caught sight of him--so maybe Abrams was off his nut."
"Quite likely," I admitted as we turned the jutting corner of the
building and came under shelter by the ticket office. "But keep a close
The other four retainers were in the passageway, and I called to the
ticket-seller for the tickets to Livermore. By the price I decided that
Livermore must be somewhere within fifty miles, and marshaling my troop
about the boy, marched into the waiting-room, past the door-keeper,
through the sheds, and on to the ferry boat.
I saw no signs of the enemy, and breathed freer as the last belated
passenger leaped aboard, the folding gang-plank was raised, and the
steamer, with a prolonged blast of the whistle, slid out into the
yellow-green waters of the bay.
The morning had dawned pleasant, but the sky was now becoming overcast.
The wind came fresh and strong from the south. The white-capped waves
were beginning to toss and fret the shallow waters, and the air gave
promise of storm. We could see men busy making all things snug on the
vessels that swung uneasily to their anchors in the harbor, and tugs
were rushing about, puffing noisily over nothing, or here and there
towing some vessel to a better position to meet the rising gale. The
panorama of the bay, with the smoke-laden city, grim and dark behind,
the forest of masts lining its shore, the yellow-green waters, dotted
here and there with ships tossing sharply above the white-capped waves
that chased each other toward the north, the cloud squadrons flying up
in scattered array from the south, and the Alameda hills lying somber
and dark under the gray canopy of the eastern sky in front, had a charm
that took my mind for the time from the mysterious enterprise that lay
"Keep together, boys," I cautioned my retainers as I recalled the
situation. "Has any one seen signs of the other gang?"
There was a general murmur in the negative.
"Well, Abrams, will you slip around and see if any of them got aboard?
There's no such thing as being comfortable until we are sure."
In the hurry and excitement of preparation and departure, the orders I
had given and received, and the work that filled every moment, I had
been conscious of the uneasy burden of a task forgotten. I had surely
neglected something. Yet for my life I could not see that we lacked
anything. I had my seven retainers, the boy was safe with us, I had my
purse, we were well-armed, and every man had his ticket to Livermore.
But at last the cause of my troubles came to my mind.
"Great Scott!" I thought. "It's Doddridge Knapp. That little engagement
in the stock-market is casting its shadow before."
It seemed likely indeed that the demands of my warring employers would
clash here as well as in the conflict over the boy.
Yet with all the vengeful feeling that filled my heart as I looked on
the child and called up the memory of my murdered friend, I could but
feel a pang of regret at the prospect that Doddridge Knapp's fortune
should be placed in hazard through any unfaithfulness of mine. He had
trusted me with his plans and his money. And the haunting thought that
his fortune was staked on the venture, and that his ruin might follow,
with the possible beggary of Luella and Mrs. Knapp, should I fail him
at tomorrow's crisis, weighed on my spirits.
My uncomfortable reflections were broken by the clanging engine-bells
and the forward movement of the passengers as the steamboat passed into
the slip at Long Wharf.
"Stand together, boys," I cautioned my men. "Keep back of the crowd.
Wainwright will take the boy, and the rest of you see that nobody gets
"All right," said Wainwright, lifting the child in his arms. "It will
take a good man to get him away from me."
"Where's Abrams?" I asked, noting that only six of my men were at hand.
"You sent him forward," said Lockhart.
"Not for all day."
"Well, he hasn't been seen since you told him to find out who's
I was a little vexed at the seeming neglect of my retainer, and as we
had come down the rear stairs to avoid the crowd and marched through
the driveway on the lower deck, I cast a glance into the bar-room with
the expectation of finding him engaged in the gentle art of fortifying
his courage. But no sign of the missing man met my eye.
"It's no use to wait for him," I growled. "But the next man that takes
French leave had better look somewhere else for a job, for by the great
horn spoon, he's no man of mine."
We marched off the boat in the rear of the crowd, I in no pleasant
humor, and the men silent in reflection of my displeasure. And with
some difficulty we found seats together in a forward coach. I arranged
my men in three seats on one side of the car and two on the other,
Wainwright taking the center of the three with the boy, guarded thus
front and rear, while I sat opposite and one seat behind, where I could
observe any attempt at interference, with Lockhart in front of me. I
judged that any one who tried to attack the position would have a
lively five minutes on his hands.
The train was the east-bound overland, and it seemed hours before the
baggage was taken aboard and the signal given to start. I grew uneasy,
but as my watch assured me that only ten minutes had passed when the
engine gave the first gentle pull at the train, I suspected that I was
losing the gift of patience. The train had not gathered headway before
a man bent beside me, and Abrams' voice spoke softly in my ear.
"There are two of 'em aboard."
"Yes? Where did you find them?" I asked.
"In the stoke hole. I hid behind a bench till every one had gone and
saw 'em crawl out. They bribed a fireman or deck-hand or some one to
keep 'em under cover. They got off the boat at the last minute, and I
sneaked after 'em."
"And they're on the train?"
"Yes, three cars back,--next to the sleepers. Shall we chuck 'em
overboard as soon as we get out of Oakland?"
"Not unless we are attacked," I returned. "Just sit down by the rear
door and give the signal if they come this way. There'll be no trouble
if they are only two."
My precautions were not called to a test, and we reached Livermore at
near eleven o'clock, without further incident than a report from Abrams
that the spies of the enemy got off the train at every station and
watched for our landing. Yet when we stood on the platform of the bare
little station at Livermore and saw the yellow cars crawling away on
their eastward journey, we looked in vain for the men who had tracked
"Fooled, by thunder!" said Fitzhugh with a laugh in which the others
joined. "They're off for Sacramento."
"They'll have to earn their money to find us there," said Abrams.
The gray day had become grayer, and the wind blew fresh in our faces
with the smell of rain heavy upon it, as we sought the hotel. It was a
bare country place, yet trees grew by the hotel and there were vines
climbing about its side, and it looked as though we might be
comfortable for a day, should we have to stay there so long.
"Plenty of room," said the landlord rubbing his hands.
"Are there any letters here for Henry Wilton?" I inquired, bethinking
me that orders might have been sent me already.
"O Lord, no, sir. We don't have telegrams here unless somebody's dead."
"You may give me Mr. Wilton's mail if any comes," I said.
The landlord led the way up the stairs, and beguiled me by informing me
what a fine house he had and how hard the times were.
"We wish a large room, you know, where we can be together," I said,
"and sleeping-rooms adjoining."
"Here's just the place for you," said the landlord, taking the way to
the end of the upper hall and throwing open a double door. "This is the
up-stairs parlor, but I can let you have it. There's this large bedroom
opening off it,--the corner bedroom, sir,--and this small one here at
this side opens into the parlor and the hall. Perhaps you would like
this other one, too."
He seemed ready and anxious to rent us the whole house.
"This is enough for our comfort," I assured him.
"There'll be a fire here in a minute," said the landlord, regarding the
miserable little stove with an eye of satisfaction that I attributed to
its economical proportions.
"This is good enough," said Lockhart, looking about approvingly at the
prim horsehair furniture that gave an awesome dignity to the parlor.
"Beats our quarters below all hollow," said Fitzhugh. "And no need to
have your gun where you can grab it when the first man says boo!"
"Don't get that idea into your head," said I. "Just be ready for
anything that comes. We're not out of the woods yet, by a long way."
"They've gone on to Sacramento," laughed Fitzhugh; and the others
nodded in sympathy.
"Indeed?" I said. "How many of you could have missed seeing a party of
nine get off at a way-station on this line?"
There was silence.
"If there's any one here who thinks he would have missed us when he was
set to look for us, just let him speak up," I continued with good-
"I guess you're right," said Fitzhugh. "They couldn't well have missed
"Exactly. And they're not off for Sacramento, and not far from
"Well, they're only two," said Lockhart.
"How long will it take to get a dozen more up here?" I asked.
"There's a train to Niles about noon," said one of the men. "They could
get over from there in an hour or two more by hard riding."
"The Los Angeles train comes through about dark," said another.
"I think, gentlemen," said I politely, "that we'd best look out for our
defenses. There's likely to be a stormy evening, I should judge."
"Well," growled Wainwright, "we can look out for ourselves as well as
the next fellow."
"If there's bloody crowns going round, the other gang will get its
share," said Fitzhugh. And the men about me nodded.
I was cheered to see that they needed nobody to do their fighting,
however advisable it might be to do their thinking by deputy.
"Very good," I said. "Now I'll just look about the town a bit. You may
come with me, if you please, Fitzhugh."
"And Abrams and Lockhart may go scouting If they like."
Abrams and Lockhart thought they would like.
"Better keep together," I continued. "What's the earliest time any one
could get here?"
"Two o'clock--if they drove over."
"I'll be around here by that time. You, Abrams, can look out for the
road and see who comes into town."
"All right, sir," said Abrams. "There won't anybody get in here without
I catch sight of him."
Lockhart nodded his assent to the boast, and after cautioning the men
who were left behind we sallied forth.
The town was a straggling, not unpleasing country place. The business
street was depressing with its stores closed and its saloons open. A
few loafers hung about the doors of the dram-shops, but the moist
breath of the south wind eddying about with its burden of dust and dead
leaves made indoors a more comfortable location, and through the blue
haze of tobacco smoke we could see men gathered inside. Compared with
the dens I had found about my lodgings in the city, the saloons were
orderly; but nevertheless they offended my New England sense of the
fitness of things. In the city I had scarcely known that there was a
Sunday. But here I was reminded, and felt that something was amiss.
In the residence streets I was better pleased. Man had done little, but
nature was prodigal to make up for his omissions. The buildings were
poor and flimsy, but in the middle of December the flowers bloomed,
vines were green, bushes sent forth their leaves, and the beauty of the
scene even under the leaden skies and rising gale made it a delight to
"Not much of a place," said Fitzhugh, looking disdainfully at the
buildings. "Hello! Here's Dick Thatcher. How are you, Dick? It's a year
of Sundays that I haven't seen you. This is--er--a friend of mine,
Thatcher,--you needn't mention that you've seen us." And Fitzhugh
stumbled painfully over the recollection that we were incognito, and
became silent in confusion.
"We needn't be strangers to Mr. Thatcher," I laughed. "My name is
Wilton. Of course you won't mention our business."
"Oh, no, Mr. Wilton," said Thatcher, impressed, and shifting the quid
of tobacco in his lantern jaws. "Of course not."
"And you needn't say anything of our being here at all," I continued.
"It might spoil the trade."
"Mum's the word," said Thatcher. "I'll not let a soul know till you say
'Let 'er go.' O Lord! I hope the trade goes through. We want a lot more
Mr. Thatcher began to scratch his head and to expectorate tobacco-juice
copiously, and I suspected he was wondering what the secret might be
that he was not to betray. So I made haste to say:
"Is this stable yours?"
"Yes, sir," said Thatcher eagerly. "I've been running it nigh on two
"Pretty good business, eh, Dick?" said Fitzhugh, looking critically
"Nothin' to brag on," said Thatcher disparagingly. "You don't make a
fortune running a livery stable in these parts--times are too hard."
And then Mr. Thatcher unbent, and between periods of vigorous
mastication at his cud, introduced us to his horses and eagerly
explained the advantages that his stable possessed over any other this
side of Oakland.
"Very good," I said. "We may want something in your line later. We can
find you here at any time, I suppose."
"O Lord, yes. I live here days and sleep here nights. But if you want
to take a look at the property before it gets a wetting you'll have to
be pretty spry."
My suggestion of a trade had misled the worthy stableman into the
impression that I was considering the purchase of real estate.
"I'll see about it," I said.
"There's a big rain coming on, sure," he said warningly, as we turned
back to the hotel.
It was a little after one o'clock, but as we approached our quarters
Lockhart came running toward me.
"What is it?" I asked, as he panted, out of breath.
"There's a special train just come in," he said; "an engine and one
car. It's at the station now."
"So? Did any of our friends come on it?"
"Abrams has gone down to find out."
"Come along then," said I. "We'll see what is to be seen."
"Don't!" cried Fitzhugh, catching my arm. "They might get you."
"Nonsense," said I, shaking off his grasp. "Have your revolver ready,
and follow me."
A PIECE OF STRATEGY
A few idlers were on the platform of the station as we approached with
much apparent unconcern, our hands in our overcoat pockets where the
"Where's the train?" I asked, looking at the bare track.
"Yonder," grunted a native, pointing his thumb lazily up the road where
the engine lay by the watering tank, slaking its thirst.
"Well, just let me and Lockhart walk ahead," said Fitzhugh gruffly, as
we started along the track. "I shouldn't have the first idea what we
was here for if you was to be knocked over."
Fitzhugh could not be much more in the dark on this point than I, but I
let him have his way. If some one was to be shot, I was ready to resign
my claim to the distinction in favor of the first comer.
There were perhaps a score of people about the car.
"There's Abrams," said Lockhart.
"There's no danger, then," said Fitzhugh with a grin. "See, he's