Part 6 out of 6
this force I thought that I might safely attempt an assault on the Den.
The Den was a low, two-story building of brick, with a warehouse below,
and the quarters of the enemy, approached by a narrow stairway, above.
"Step quietly," I cautioned my men, as we neared the dark and
forbidding entrance. "Keep close to the shadow of the buildings. Our
best chance is in a surprise."
There was no guard at the door that stood open to the street, and we
halted a moment before it to make sure of our plans.
"It's a bad hole," whispered Corson.
"A fine place for an ambush," I returned dubiously.
"Well, there's no help for it," said the policeman. "Come on!" And
drawing his club and revolver he stole noiselessly up the stairs.
I felt my way up step by step, one hand against the wall and my shoes
scraping cautiously for a resting-place, while my men followed in
single file with the same silent care.
But in spite of this precaution, we were not two-thirds the way up the
flight before a voice shot out of the darkness.
We stopped and held our breath. There was a minute of silence, but it
was broken by the creak of a board as one of the men shifted his
"There's some one here!" cried the voice above us. "Halt, or I'll
shoot! Peterson! Conn! Come quick!"
There was no more need for silence, and Corson and I reached the
landing just as a door opened that let the light stream from within.
Two men had sprung to the doorway, and another could be seen faintly
outlined in the dark hall.
"Holy Mother! it's the cops!" came in an awe-stricken voice at the
sight of Corson's star.
"Right, my hearty!" cried Corson, making a rush for the man, who darted
down the hall in an effort to escape. The two men jumped back into the
room and tried to close the door, but I was upon them before they could
swing it shut. Four of my men had followed me close, and with a few
blows given and taken, the two were prisoners.
"Tie them fast," I ordered, and hastened to see how Corson fared.
I met the worthy policeman in the hall, blown but exultant. Owens was
following him, and between them they half-dragged, half-carried the man
who had given the alarm.
"He made a fight for it," puffed Corson, "but I got in wan good lick at
him and he wilted. You'll surrinder next time when I tell ye, won't ye,
"Aren't there any more about?" I asked. "There were more than three
left in the gang."
"If there had been more of us, you'd never have got in," growled one of
"Where's Barkhouse?" I asked.
"Find him!" was the defiant reply.
We began the search, opening one room after another. Some were
sleeping-rooms, some the meeting-rooms, while the one we had first
entered appeared to be the guard-room.
"Hello! What's this?" exclaimed Corson, tapping an iron door, such as
closes a warehouse against fire.
"It's locked, sure enough," said Owens, after trial.
"It must be the place we are looking for," I said. "Search those men
The search was without result.
"It's a sledge we must get," said Owens, starting to look about for
"Hould on," said Corson, "I was near forgetting. I've got a master-key
that fits most of these locks. It's handy for closing up a warehouse
when some clerk with his wits a-wandering forgits his job. So like
enough it's good at unlocking."
It needed a little coaxing, but the bolt at last slid back and the
heavy doors swung open. The room was furnished with a large table, a
big desk, and a dozen chairs, which sprang out of the darkness as I
struck a match and lit the gas. It was evidently the council-room of
"This is illigant," said the policeman, looking around with approval;
"but your man isn't here, I'd say."
"Well, it looks as though there might be something here of interest," I
replied, seizing eagerly upon the papers that lay scattered about upon
the desk. "Look in the other rooms while I run through these."
A rude diagram on the topmost paper caught my eye. It represented a
road branching thrice. On the third branch was a cross, and then at
intervals four crosses, as if to mark some features of the landscape.
Underneath was written:
"From B--follow 1 1-2 m. Take third road--3 or 5."
The paper bore date of that day, and I guessed that it was meant to
show the way to the supposed hiding-place of the boy.
Then, as I looked again, the words and lines touched a cord of memory.
Something I had seen or known before was vaguely suggested. I groped in
the obscurity for a moment, vainly reaching for the phantom that danced
just beyond the grasp of my mental fingers.
There was no time to lose in speculating, and I turned to the work that
pressed before us. But as I thrust the papers into my pocket to resume
the search for Barkhouse, the elusive memory flashed on me. The diagram
of the enemy recalled the single slip of paper I had found in the
pocket of Henry Wilton's coat on the fatal night of my arrival. I had
kept it always with me, for it was the sole memorandum left by him of
the business that had brought him to his death. I brought it out, very
badly creased and rumpled from much carrying, but still quite as
legible as on the night I had first seen it.
Placed side by side with the map I had before me, the resemblance was
less close than I had thought. Yet all the main features were the same.
There was the road branching thrice; a cross in both marked the
junction of the third road as though it gave sign of a building or some
natural landmark; and the other features were indicated in the same
order. No--there was a difference in this point; there were five
crosses on the third road in the enemy's diagram, while there were but
four in mine.
In the matter of description the enemy had the advantage, slight as it
"Third road--cockeyed barn--iron cow," and the confused jumble of
drunken letters and figures that Henry had written--I could make
nothing of these.
"From B--follow 1 1-2 m. Take third road--3 or 5"--this was at least
Then it came on me like a blow,--was this the mysterious "key" that the
Unknown had demanded of me in her letter of this morning? I turned sick
at heart at the thought that my ignorance and inattention had put the
boy in jeopardy. The enemy had perhaps a clue to the hiding-place that
the Unknown did not possess. The desertion of these headquarters
swelled my fears. Though Terrill, disabled by wounds, was groaning with
pain and rage at Livermore, and the night's arrests at Borton's had
reduced the numbers of the band, Darby Meeker was still on the active
list. And Doddridge Knapp? He was free now to follow his desperate plot
to its end without risking his schemes of fortune. The absence of
Meeker, the date of to-day upon the map, suggesting that it had but
just come into the hands of the enemy, and the lack of a garrison in
the Den, raised the apprehension that fresh mischief was afoot.
I was roused from my reverie of fears by confused shouts from down the
hall, and sprang hastily to the door, with the thought that the forces
of the enemy were upon us.
"Here he is! they've found him," cried an excited voice.
"Yes, sir! here he comes!"
It was truly the stalwart guard; but two days had made a sad change in
him. With head bound in a bloody rag, and face of a waxy yellow hue, he
staggered limply out of one of the rear rooms between Corson and Owens.
"Brace up, me boy! You're worth ten dead men," said the policeman
encouragingly. "That's right! you'll be yourself in a jiffy."
Barkhouse was soon propped up on the lounge in the guard-room, and with
a few sips of whisky and a fresh bandage began to look like a more
"'Twas a nasty cut," said one of the men sympathetically.
"How did you get it?" I asked.
"I don't rightly know," said Barkhouse faintly. "'Twas the night you
went to Mother Borton's last week. After I leaves you, I walks down a
piece towards the bay, and as I gets about to Drumm Street, I guess, a
fellow comes along as I takes to be a sailor half-loaded. 'Hello,
mate,' he says, a-trying to steady himself, 'what time did you say it
was?' 'I didn't say,' says I, for I was too fly to take out my watch,
even if it is a nickel-plater, for how could he tell what it was in the
dark? and it's good for a dozen drinks at any water-front saloon.
'Well, what do you make it?' he says; and as I was trying to reckon
whether it was nearer twelve or one o'clock, he lurches up agin' me and
grabs my arms as if to steady himself. Then three or four fellows jumps
from behind a lot of packing-boxes there, and grabs me. I makes a fight
for it, and gives one yell, and the next I knows I was in a dark room
here with the sorest head in San Francisco. An' I reckon I've been here
about six days, and another would have finished me."
Barkhouse's "six days" estimate provoked a smile.
"If you could get paid on your time reckoning," remarked Owens in a
humorous tone, "you'd be well off, Bob. 'Twas night before last you got
Barkhouse looked incredulous, but I nodded my support of Owens'
"However, you'll be paid on your own reckoning, and better, too," I
said; and he was thereby consoled.
"Now, we must get out of here," I continued. "Take turns by twos in
helping Barkhouse. We had better not risk staying here."
"Right," said Corson, "and now we'll just take these three beauties
along to the station."
"On what charge?" growled the man addressed as Conn.
"Disturbing the peace--you've disturbed ours for sure--resisting an
officer, vulgar language, keeping a disorderly house, carrying a pistol
without a permit, and anything else I can think up between here and the
station-house. If that doesn't satisfy ye, I'll put ye down for assault
and robbery on Barkhouse's story, and ye may look out for a charge of
murder before ye git out."
The men swore at this cheerful prospect, but as their hands were bound
behind them, and Corson walked with his club in one hand and his pistol
in the other, they took up the march at command, and the rest of us
THE CHASE IN THE STORM
When we reached the entrance to our quarters on Montgomery Street the
rain had once more begun to fall, gently now, but the gusts of damp
wind from the south promised more and worse to follow.
"Hello!" cried the first man, starting back. "What's this?"
The line stopped, and I moved forward.
"What is it?" I asked.
"A message for you, Mr. Wilton," said a voice suddenly from the recess
of the doorway.
"Give it to me," I said.
A slip of paper was thrust into my hand, and I passed up the stairs.
"I'll wait for you," said the messenger, and at the first gas-jet that
burned at the head of the stairs I stopped to read the address.
It was in the hand of the Unknown, and my fatigue and indifference were
gone in a moment. I trembled as I tore open the envelope, and read:
"Follow the bearer of this note at 12:30. Come alone and armed. It is
There was no signature.
If this meant anything it meant that I was to meet the Unknown, and
perhaps to search the heart of the mystery. I had been heavy with
fatigue and drowsy with want of sleep, but at this thought the energies
of life were once more fresh within me.
With my new-found knowledge it might be more important than even the
Unknown was aware, that we should meet. To me, the map, the absence of
Darby Meeker and his men, the mysterious hints of murder and death that
had come from the lips of Mother Borton, were but vaguely suggestive.
But to the Unknown, with her full knowledge of the objects sought by
the enemy and the motives that animated their ceaseless pursuit, the
darkness might be luminous, the obscurity clear.
The men had waited a minute for me as I read the note.
"Go to your rooms and get some rest," I said. "I am called away. Trent
will be in charge, and I will send word to him if I need any of you."
They looked at me in blank protest.
"You're not going alone, sir?" cried Owens in a tone of alarm.
"Oh, no. But I shall not need a guard." I hoped heartily that I did
The men shook their heads doubtfully, and I continued:
"Corson will be down from the Central Station in fifteen or twenty
minutes. Just tell him that I've been sent for, and to come to-morrow
if he can make it in his way."
And bidding them good night I ran hastily down the stairs before any of
the men could frame his protest into words.
"Are you ready, sir?" asked the messenger.
"It is close on half-past twelve," I answered. "Where is she?"
"It's not far," said my guide evasively.
I understood the danger of speech, and did not press for an answer.
We plunged down Montgomery Street in the teeth of the wind that dashed
the spray in our faces at one moment, lulled an instant the better to
deceive the unwary, and then leaped at us from behind corners with the
impetuous rush of some great animal that turned to vapor as it reached
us. The street was dark except for the newspaper offices, which glowed
bright with lights on both sides of the way, busy with the only signs
of life that the storm and the midnight hour had left.
With the lighted buildings behind us we turned down California Street.
Half-way down the block, in front of the Merchants' Exchange, stood a
hack. At the sight my heart beat fast and my breath came quick. Here,
perhaps, was the person about whom centered so many of my hopes and
fears, in whose service I had faced death, and whose words might serve
to make plain the secret springs of the mystery.
As we neared the hack my guide gave a short, suppressed whistle, and
passing before me, flung open the door to the vehicle and motioned me
to enter. I glanced about with some lack of confidence oppressing my
spirits. But I had gone too far to retreat, and stepped into the hack.
Instead of following, the guide closed the door gently; I heard him
mount the seat by the driver, and in a moment we were in motion.
Was I alone? I had expected to find the Unknown, but the dark interior
gave no sign of a companion. Then the magnetic suggestion of the
presence of another came to my spirit, and a faint perfume put all my
senses on the alert. It was the scent that had come to me with the
letters of the Unknown. A slight movement made me certain that some one
sat in the farther corner of the carriage.
Was it the Unknown or some agent? And if it proved to be the Unknown,
was she the lady I had met in cold business greeting in the courtyard
of the Palace Hotel? I waited impatiently for the first street-lamp to
throw a gleam of light into the carriage. But when it came I was little
the wiser. I could see faintly the outlines of a figure shrouded in
black that leaned in the corner, motionless save for the swaying and
pitching of the hack as it rolled swiftly down the street.
The situation became a little embarrassing. Was it my place to speak
first? I wondered. At last I could endure the silence no longer.
"Quite an unpleasant evening," I remarked politely.
There was a rustle of movement, the sound of a short gasp, and a soft,
mournful voice broke on my ear.
"Mr. Dudley--can you forgive me?"
The astonishment I felt to hear my own name once more--the name that
seemed now to belong to a former state of existence--was swallowed up
as the magnetic tones carried their revelation to my mind.
I was stricken dumb for a moment at the discovery they had brought.
Then I gasped:
"Yes, Mrs. Knapp," she said with a mournful laugh. "Did you never
I was lost in wonder and confusion, and even yet could not understand.
"What brings you out in this storm?" I asked, completely mystified. "I
thought I was to meet another person."
"Indeed?" said Mrs. Knapp with a spark of animation. "Well, I am the
I was paralyzed in mind and nerve for a moment with the astonishment of
the disclosure. Even yet I could not believe.
"You!" I exclaimed at last. "Are you the protector of the boy? The
employer--" Then I stopped, the tangle in my mind beginning to
"I am she," said Mrs. Knapp gently.
"Then," I cried, "who is he? what is he? what is the whole dreadful
affair about? and what--"
Mrs. Knapp interrupted me.
"First tell me what has become of Henry Wilton?" she said with sorrow
in her voice.
The dreadful scene in the alley flashed before my mind.
"He is dead."
"Dead! And how?"
"I feared so--I was certain, or he would have let me know. You have
much to tell me. But first, did he leave no papers in your hands?"
I brought out the slip that bore the blind diagram and the blinder
description that accompanied it. Nothing could be made of it in the
darkness, so I described it as well as I could.
"We are on the right track," said Mrs. Knapp. "Oh, why didn't I have
that yesterday? But here--we are at the wharf."
The hack had stopped, and a hand was fumbling at the door.
The darkness, the dash of water, the wind whistling about the crazy
wooden buildings and through the rigging of ships, made the water-front
vocal with the shouting of the storm demons as we alighted.
My guide was before us, and we followed him down the pier, struggling
against the gusts.
"Do we cross the bay?" I asked, as Mrs. Knapp clung to my arm. "It's
not safe for you in a small boat."
"There's a tug waiting for us," Mrs. Knapp explained.
A moment later we saw its lights, and the fire of its engine-room shot
a cheerful glow into the storm. The little vessel swung uneasily at its
berth as we made our way aboard, and with shouts of men and clang of
bells it was soon tossing on the dark waters of the bay. Out from the
shelter of the wharves the wind buffeted us wildly, and the black waves
were threshed into phosphorescent foam against the sides of the tug,
while their crests, self-luminous, stretched away in changing lines of
faint, ghostly fire.
The cabin of the tug was fitted with a shelf table, and over it swung a
lamp of brass that gave a dim light to the little room. Mrs. Knapp
seated herself here, as the boat pitched and tossed and trembled at the
strokes of the waves and quivered to the throbbing of the screw, spread
out the paper I had given her, and studied the diagram and the jumble
of letters with anxious attention.
"It is the same," she said at last; "in part, at least."
"The same as what?" I asked.
"As the one I got word of to-night, you know," she replied.
"No--I didn't know."
"Of course not," said Mrs. Knapp. "But you might have guessed that I
got my summons after you left, this evening. I should have spoken to
you then if I had known. I was near coming to an explanation, as it
"There are a good many things I haven't guessed," I confessed.
"But," she continued, returning to the map, "this gives a different
place. I was to go to the cross-road here,"--indicating the mark at the
"I'm glad to hear that," said I, taking out the diagram I had found in
the citadel of the enemy. "This seems to point to a different place,
too, and I really hope that the gentleman who drew this map is a good
way off from the truth."
"Where did you get this?" exclaimed Mrs. Knapp.
I described the circumstances in as few words as I could command.
"They are ahead of us," she said in alarm.
"They have started first, I suppose," was my suggestion.
"And they have the right road."
"Then our only hope is that they may not know the right place."
"God grant it," said Mrs. Knapp.
She was silent for a few minutes, and I saw that her eyes were filled
I was moved by her signs of feeling. I thought they were for the boy
and was about to ask what would happen to him in case he was found by
the enemy, when she said:
"Now tell me about Henry Wilton--how he died and when."
Again the vision of my first dreadful night in San Francisco rose
before me, the cries for help from my murdered friend rang in my ears,
and the scene in the alley and the figure in the morgue burned before
I told the tale as it had happened, and as I told it I read in the face
before me the varying emotions of alarm, horror and grief that were
stirred by its incidents.
But one thing I could not tell her. The wolf-face I had seen in the
lantern flash in the alley I could not name nor describe to the wife of
Doddridge Knapp. Yet at the thought the dark mystery grew darker, yet,
and I began to doubt what my eyes had seen, and my ears had heard.
Mrs. Knapp bowed her head in deep, gloomy thought.
"I feared it, yet he would not listen to my warnings," she murmured.
"He would work his own way." Then she looked me suddenly straight in
"And why did you take his place, his name? Why did you try to do his
work when you had seen the dreadful end to which it had brought him?"
I confessed that it was half through the insistence of Detective Coogan
that I was Henry Wilton, half through the course of events that seemed
to make it the easiest road to reach the vengeance that I had vowed to
bring the murderer of my friend.
"You are bent on avenging him?" asked Mrs. Knapp thoughtfully.
"I have promised it."
"You shall have the chance. Strange thought!" she said gloomily, "that
the dead hand of Henry Wilton may reach out from beyond the grave and
strike at his slayer when he least expects it."
I was more than ever mystified at these words. I had not expected her
to take so philosophically to the idea of hanging Doddridge Knapp, and
I thought it best to hold my tongue.
"I have marveled at you," said Mrs. Knapp after a pause. "I marvel at
you yet. You have carried off your part well."
"Not well enough, it seems, to deceive you," I said, a little bitterly.
"You should not have expected to deceive me," said Mrs. Knapp. "But you
can imagine the shock I had when I saw that it was not Henry Wilton who
had come among us that first night when I called you from Mr. Knapp's
"You certainly succeeded in concealing any surprise you may have felt,"
I said. "You are a better actor than I."
Mrs. Knapp smiled.
"It was more than surprise--it was consternation," she said. "I had
been anxious at receiving no word from Henry. I suppose you got my
notes. And when I saw you I was torn with doubts, wondering whether
anything had happened to Henry, whether he had sent you in his stead as
a practical joke, whether you knew much or little or nothing of our
affairs--in short, I was overwhelmed."
"I didn't suppose I was quite so poor an impostor," I said
apologetically, with a qualm at the word. "Though I did get some hint
of it," I added, with a painful recollection of the candid statement of
opinion I had received from the daughter of the house.
"Oh, you did very well," said Mrs. Knapp kindly, "but no one could have
been successful in that house. Luella was quite outraged over it, but I
managed to quiet her."
"I hope Miss Knapp has not retained the unfavorable impressions of--er--"
I stammered in much confusion.
Mrs. Knapp gave me a keen glance.
"You know she has not," she said.
I felt the subconscious impression somehow that after all Mrs. Knapp
would have been better pleased if Luella had kept nearer to her first
impressions of me.
"Well," continued Mrs. Knapp, "when I saw you and guessed that
something had happened to Henry Wilton, and found that you knew little
of what was going on, I changed the plan of campaign. I did not know
that you were one to be trusted, but I saw that you could be used to
keep the others on a false scent, for you deceived everybody but us."
"There was one other," I said.
"Mother Borton?" inquired Mrs. Knapp. "Yes, I learned that she knew
you. But to every one else in the city you were Henry Wilton. I feared,
though, you would make some mistake that would betray you and spoil my
plans. But you have succeeded marvelously."
Mrs. Knapp paused a moment and then continued slowly. "It was cruel of
me. I knew that it was sending you to face death. But I was alarmed,
angry at the imposition, and felt that you had brought it on yourself.
Can you forgive me?"
"I have nothing to forgive," I said.
"I would have spoken when I found you for what you are," said Mrs.
Knapp, "but I thought until the Livermore trip that you could serve me
best as you were doing."
"It was blind work," I said.
"It was blind enough for you, not for me. I was deceived in one thing,
however; I thought that you had no papers--nothing from Henry that
could help or hurt. The first night you came to us I had Henry's room
"Oh, I was indebted to you for that attention," I exclaimed. "I gave
our friends of the other house the credit."
Mrs. Knapp smiled again.
"I thought it necessary. It was the chance that you did not sleep there
that night that kept this paper out of my hands weeks ago."
"I have always kept it with me," I said.
"I did not need it till Sunday," continued Mrs. Knapp. "I have been
worried much at the situation of the boy, but I did not dare go near
him. Henry and I decided that his hiding-place was not safe. We had
talked of moving him a few days before you came. When I found that
Henry had disappeared I was anxious to make the change, but I could not
venture to attempt it until the others were out of town, for I knew I
was watched. Then I was assured from Mother Borton that they did not
know where the boy was hidden, and I let the matter rest. But a few
days ago--on Saturday--she sent me word that she thought they had found
the place. Then it came to me to send you to Livermore with the other
boy--oh, I hope no harm came to the little fellow," she exclaimed
"He's safe at my rooms in charge of Wainwright," I said. "He got back
on the morning train, and can be had for the asking."
"Oh, I'm so glad," said Mrs. Knapp. "I was afraid something would
happen to him, but I had to take desperate chances. Well, you see my
plan succeeded. They all followed you. But when I went to the hiding-
place the boy was gone. Henry had moved him weeks ago, and had died
before he could tell me. Then I thought you might know more than you
had told me--that Henry Wilton might have got you to help him when he
made the change, and I wrote to you."
"And the key," I said, remembering the expression of the note, "Did you
mean this diagram?"
"No," said Mrs. Knapp. "I meant the key to our cipher code. I was
looking over Henry's letters for some hint of a hiding-place and could
not find the key to the cipher. I thought you might have been given
one. I found mine this afternoon, though, and there was no need of it,
so it didn't matter after all."
The pitching and tossing of the boat had ceased for some minutes, and
at this point the captain of the tug opened the cabin.
"Excuse me," he said apologetically, uncertain whether to address Mrs.
Knapp or me, and including us both in the question, "but where did you
want to land?"
"At Broadway," said Mrs. Knapp.
"Then you're there," said the captain.
And, a minute later, with clang of bells and groan of engine we were at
the wharf and were helped ashore.
On this side of the bay the wind had fallen, and there were signs of a
break in the clouds. The darkness of the hour was dimly broken by the
rays from the lines of street-lamps that stretched at intervals on both
sides of Broadway, making the gloom of the place and hour even more
"Tell the captain to wait here for us with fires up," said Mrs. Knapp.
"The carriage should be somewhere around here," she continued, peering
anxiously about as we reached the foot of the wharf.
The low buildings by the railroad track were but piles of blackness,
and about them I could see nothing.
"This way," said a familiar voice, and a man stepped from the shadow.
"Dicky Nahl!" I exclaimed.
"Mr. Wilton!" mimicked Dicky. "But it's just as well not to speak so
loud. Here you are. I put the hack's lights out just to escape
unpleasant remark. We had better be moving, for it's a stiffish drive
of six or seven miles. If you'll get in, I'll keep the seat with the
driver and tell him the way to go."
Mrs. Knapp entered the carriage, and called to me to follow her.
I remembered Mother Borton's warnings and my doubts of Dicky Nahl.
"You're certain you know where you are going?" I asked him in an
"No, I'm not," said Dicky frankly. "I've found a man who says he knows.
We are to meet him. We'll get there between three and four o'clock. He
won't say another word to anybody but her or you. I guess he knows what
he is about."
"Well, keep your eyes open. Meeker's gang is ahead of us. Is the driver
"Right as a judge," said Dicky cheerfully, "Now, if you'll get in with
madam we won't be wasting time here."
I stepped into the carriage. Dicky Nahl closed the door softly and
climbed on the seat by the driver, and in a moment we were rolling up
Broadway in the gloomy stillness of the early morning hour.
THE HEART OF THE MYSTERY
In the tumult of conflicting thoughts that assailed me as we entered on
the last stage of our journey, the idea of the perils that might lie
ahead fixed my attention for the moment, and I began to feel alarm for
the safety of my companion.
"Mrs. Knapp," I said; "there is no need for you to take this journey.
You had better stop in Oakland for the rest of the night."
"I must go," she replied.
"There is danger," I argued. "You should not expose yourself to the
chances of a brush with the enemy. It is a wet, cold ride, and there
may be bullets flying at the end of it."
Mrs. Knapp gave a shudder, but she spoke firmly.
"I could not rest--I could not stay away. It may be important that I
should be there--it will be important if we find the boy. You do not
know him. Mr. Nahl does not know him."
"None of my men seems to know him," I interrupted; "that is, if one may
judge by the way they were all taken in on the boy you sent to
"I think none of them ever saw his face, though some of them were with
Henry Wilton when he first took the boy, and afterward."
"The enemy seem to know him," said I, remembering the scene at
"Terrill knows him. I think none of the other agents could be certain
of his face, unless it is Mr. Meeker. But truly, I must go."
"You are very brave," I said, admiring her spirit, though I was loath
to have the responsibility of her safety on my hands.
"Without you I should not dare to go, I fear," she made answer, "I need
a strong arm to lean on, you see."
"You may wish later that you had chosen a cavalier with two strong arms
to his equipment. I fear I shouldn't do so well in a hand-to-hand
encounter as I should have done before I met Mr. Terrill last night."
"Oh, I hope it will not come to that," said Mrs. Knapp cheerfully,
though there was a little tremor in her voice.
"What if they have seized the boy?"
Mrs. Knapp was silent for a little, as if this contingency had not
entered her plans.
"We must follow him and save him, even if we have to raise the whole
county to do it." Her voice was firm and resolute.
"What would happen to the boy if he were taken?" I found courage to
"He would not live a month", she replied.
"Would he be murdered?"
"I don't know how the end would come. But I know he would die."
I was in the shadow of the mystery. A hundred questions rose to my
lips; but behind them all frowned the grim wolf-visage of Doddridge
Knapp, and I could not find the courage that could make me speak to
"Mrs. Knapp," I said, "you have called me by my name. I had almost
forgotten that I had ever borne it. I have lived more in the last month
than in the twenty-five years that I remember before it, and I have
almost come to think that the old name belongs to some one else. May I
ask how you got hold of it?"
"It was simple enough. Henry had told me about you. I remembered that
you were coming from the same town he had come from. I telegraphed to
an agent in Boston. He went up to your place, made his inquiries and
telegraphed me. I suppose you will be pleased to know," she continued
with a droll affectation of malice in her voice, "that he mailed me
your full history as gathered from the town pump. It is at the house
"I trust it is nothing so very disreputable," I said modestly, raking
my memory hastily for any likely account of youthful escapades.
"There was one rather serious bit," said Mrs. Knapp gravely. "There was
"There was more than one," I admitted.
Mrs. Knapp broke into a laugh.
"I might have expected it. I knew the account was too good to be true.
You'll have to get Luella's permission if you want to read the charges
in full, though. She has taken possession of the document."
Luella knew! At first I was disappointed, then relieved. Something of
the promised explanation was taken off my mind.
"I tried to get something out of Mother Borton concerning you,"
continued Mrs. Knapp. "I even went so far as to see her once."
"I don't think you got any more out of her than she wanted to tell."
"Indeed I did not. I was afraid Mr. Richmond had not gone about it the
right way. You know Mr. Richmond acted as my agent with her?"
"No, I didn't know. She was as close-mouthed with me as with you, I
"Well, I saw her. I wanted to get what information she had of you and
"She had a good deal of it, if she wanted to give it up."
"So I supposed. But she was too clever for me. She spoke well of you,
but not a word could I get from her about Henry. Yet she gave me the
idea that she knew much."
"I should think she might. I had told her the whole story."
"She is a strange woman."
"She was able to hold her tongue."
"A strange gift, you mean to say, I suppose," laughed Mrs. Knapp.
"She was quite as successful in concealing from me the fact that she
had ever had word with you, though I suspected that she knew more than
"She is used to keeping secrets, I suppose," replied Mrs. Knapp. "But I
must reward her well for what she has done."
"She is beyond fear or reward."
"Dead?" cried Mrs. Knapp in a shocked voice. "And how?"
"She died, I fear, because she befriended me." And then I told her the
story of Mother Borton's end.
"Poor creature!" said Mrs. Knapp sadly. "Yet perhaps it is better so.
She has died in doing a good act."
"She was a good friend to me," I said. "I should have been in the
morgue before her, I fear, but for her good will."
Mrs. Knapp was silent for a minute.
"I hope we are at the end of the tale of death," she said at last. "It
is dreadful that insane greed and malice should spread their evil so
far about. Two lives have been sacrificed already, and perhaps it is
only the beginning. Yet I believe--I am sure--I have done right."
"I am sure of that," I said, and then was silent as her words called up
the image of the Wolf, dark, forbidding, glowing with the fires of
hate--the Wolf of the lantern-flash in the alley and the dens of
Chinatown--and the mystery seemed deeper than ever. The carriage had
been rolling along swiftly. Despite the rain the streets were smooth
and hard, and we made rapid progress. We had crossed a bridge, and with
many turns made a course toward the southeast. Now the ground became
softer, and progress was slow. An interminable array of trees lined the
way on both sides, and to my impatient imagination stretched for miles
before us. Then the road became better, and the horses trotted briskly
forward again, their hoofs pattering dully on the softened ground.
"All the better," I thought. "It's as good as a muffler if any one is
listening for us."
"Here's the place," came the voice of Dicky, giving directions to the
driver; and the carriage slackened pace and stopped. Looking out I saw
that we were at a division of the road where a two-story house faced
both of the branching ways.
"You'd better come out," said Dicky at the door, addressing his remark
to me. "He was to meet us here."
"Be careful," cautioned Mrs. Knapp.
The night had turned colder, or I was chilled by the inaction of the
ride. The sky was clearing, and stars were to be seen. By the outline
of the hills we had made to the south. The horses steamed and breathed
heavily in the keen air.
I kept my hand on the revolver that lay in my overcoat pocket, and
walked with Dicky on to the porch. It was a common roadside saloon, and
at this hour it appeared wholly deserted. Even the dog, without which I
knew no roadside saloon could exist, was as silent as its owners.
"Here's a go!" said Dicky. "He was to meet us, sure. What time have you
I struck a match in a corner and looked at my watch by its flare.
"Five minutes to three."
"Whew!" he whispered, "we're regularly done. I thought he had a bad eye
when I was bargaining with him."
I wondered if Dicky had a hand in the trick, if trick it should prove
"He may be up stairs," I suggested.
Dicky groaned. "It's like advertising with a band wagon to rout 'em out
at this time of the night," he whispered.
"The enemy have been along here ahead of us," I said. "They may have
picked him up."
"That's like enough," said Dicky ruefully. "But if they've got him, we
might as well take the back tracks for town and hunt up a sheriff or
two, or send for the boys to come over."
"It's too late to do that," said I decidedly. "We must go on at once."
"Well," said Dicky dubiously, "I think I know where the fellow would
have taken us. I trailed him this afternoon, and I'll lay two to one
that I can pick out the right road."
"Is this the third road from Brooklyn?" I asked pointing to the track
that led to the left.
"I reckon so," said Dicky. "I haven't kept count, but I recollect only
two before it."
"All right. Up with you then!"
Dicky obediently mounted to the seat beside the driver.
"I shall ride outside," I said to Mrs. Knapp. "I may be needed."
"I suppose you are right," she replied with somewhat of protest in her
voice, and I closed the door, and climbed up. It was close quarters for
three, but at the word the horses, refreshed by the brief rest, rolled
the carriage up the road that led to the hills.
Half a mile farther we passed a house, and within a quarter of a mile
"We are on the right road," was my thought as I compared these in my
mind with the crosses on the diagram.
About half a mile farther, a small cluster of buildings loomed up, dark
and obscure, by the roadside.
"This is the place," I said confidently, motioning the driver to pull
up. I remembered that Henry Wilton's map had stopped at the third cross
from the parting of the roads.
"No, it isn't," said Dicky eagerly. "It's two or three miles farther
on. I trailed the fellow myself to the next house, and that's a good
two miles at least."
I had leaped to the ground, and opened the door of the carriage.
"We are at the fourth place," I said.
"And the cockeyed barn?" inquired Mrs. Knapp, peering out.
I was struck silent by this, and looked blankly at the dark forbidding
structure that fronted on the road.
"You're right," said Mrs. Knapp with a laugh. "Can't you make out that
funny little window at the end there?"
I looked more closely at the building. In the dim light of the stars,
the coat of whitewash that covered it made it possible to trace the
outlines of a window in the gable that fronted the road. Some freak of
the builder had turned it a quarter of the way around, giving it a
comical suggestion of a man with a droop to his eye.
"And the iron cow?" I asked.
"Stupid! a pump, of course," replied Mrs. Knapp with another laugh.
"Now see if there is a lane here by the barn."
A narrow roadway, just wide enough for a single wagon, joined the main
road at the corner of the building.
"Then drive up it quietly," was Mrs. Knapp's direction.
Just beyond the barn I made out the figure of the pump in a conspicuous
place by the roadside, and felt more confident that we were on the
The lane was now wrapped in Egyptian darkness. Trees lined both sides
of the narrow way. Their branches brushed our faces as we passed, and
their tops seemed to meet above us till even the faint light of the
stars scarcely glimmered through. The hoofs of the horses splashed in
the mud, and the rather clumsy carriage dragged heavily and slowly
"I'd give five dollars to light my lamps," growled the driver. We were
traveling by the instinct of the horses.
"If your life is worth more than five dollars, you'd better keep them
dark," I said.
The driver swore in an undertone as the hack lurched and groaned in a
boggy series of ruts, and a branch whipped him in the face. I was
forced to give a grunt myself, as another slapped my sore arm and sent
a sharp twinge of pain shooting from the wound till it tingled in my
toes. Dicky, protected between us, chuckled softly. I reflected
savagely that nothing spoils a man for company like a mistaken sense of
Suddenly the horses stopped so short that we were almost pitched out.
"Hello! what's this?" I cried, drawing my revolver, fearful of an
"It's a fence," said the driver.
"There must be a gate," I said, jumping down quickly.
Mrs. Knapp rapped on the carriage door and I opened it.
"Have you come to the bars?" she asked presently.
"I guess so. We've come against something like a fence."
"Well, then," she replied, "when we get through, take the road to the
left. That will bring us to the house."
"You are certain?"
"That is what Henry wrote in the cipher beneath the map. The house must
be only a few hundred yards away."
The bars were there, and I lifted the wet and soggy boards with an
anxious heart. Were we, after all, so near the hiding-place? And what
were we to find?
I mounted the seat again, and we drove forward. The road was scarcely
distinguishable, but the horses followed it without hesitation as it
led behind a tall hedge and among scattered oaks.
My heart beat fast. What if the enemy were before us?
"Have you got your revolver handy?" I whispered to Dicky.
"Two of 'em," he chuckled. "There's a double dose for the man that
On a sudden turn the house loomed up before us, and a wild clamor of
dogs broke the stillness of the night.
"I hope they are tied," I said, with a poor attempt to conceal my
"We'll have a lively time in a quarter of a minute if they aren't,"
laughed Dicky, as he followed me.
But the baying and barking came no nearer, and I helped Mrs. Knapp out
of the carriage. She looked at the house closely.
"This is the place," she said, in an unmistakable tone of decision. "We
must be quick. I wish something would quiet those dogs; they will bring
the whole country out."
It seemed an hour before we could raise any one, but it may not have
been three minutes before a voice came from behind the door.
"It is L. M. K.," said Mrs. Knapp; then she added three words of
gibberish that I took to be the passwords used to identify the friends
of the boy.
At the words there was the sound of bolts shooting back, and the heavy
door opened enough to admit us. As we passed in, it was closed once
more and the bolts shot home.
Before us stood a short, heavy-set man, holding a candle. His face,
which was stamped with much of the bulldog look in it, was smooth-
shaven except for a bristling brown mustache. He looked inquiringly at
"Is he here--the boy?" cried Mrs. Knapp, her voice choked with anxiety.
"Yes," said the man. "Do we move again?" He seemed to feel no surprise
at the situation, and I inferred that it was not the first time he had
changed quarters on a sudden at the darkest hour of the night.
"At once," said Mrs. Knapp, in her tone of decision.
"It will take ten minutes to get ready," said the man. "Come this way."
I was left standing alone by the door in the darkness, with a burden
lifted from my mind. We had come in time. The single slip of paper left
by Henry Wilton had been the means, through a strange combination of
events, to point the way to the unknown hiding-place of the boy. He was
still safe, and the enemy were on a false trail. I should not have to
reproach myself with the sacrifice of the child.
Yet my mind was far from easy. The enemy might have been misled, but if
they had followed the road marked out in the diagram I had brought from
their den, they were too close for comfort. I listened for any sound
from the outside. The dogs had quieted down. Twice I thought I heard
hoof-beats, and there was a chorus of barks from the rear of the house.
But it was only the horses that had brought us hither, stamping
impatiently as they waited.
In a few minutes the wavering light of the candle reappeared. Mrs.
Knapp was carrying a bundle that I took to be the boy, and the man
brought a valise and a blanket.
"It's all right," said Mrs. Knapp. "No--I can carry him--I want to
The man opened the door, then closed and locked it as I helped Mrs.
Knapp into the carriage.
"Have you got him safe?" asked Dicky incredulously. "Well, I'll have to
say that you know more than I thought you did." And the relief and
satisfaction in his tone were so evident that I gladly repented of my
suspicions of the light-hearted Dicky.
"Have you heard anything?" I asked him anxiously.
"I thought I heard a yell over here through the woods. We had better
get out of here."
"Don't wait a second," said the man. "The south road comes over this
other way. If you've heard anybody there, they will be here in five
minutes. I'll follow you on a horse."
With an injunction to haste, I stepped after Mrs. Knapp into the
carriage, the door was shut, Dicky mounted the seat, and we rolled down
the road on the return journey.
"Oh, how thankful I am!" cried Mrs. Knapp. "There is a weight of
anxiety off my mind. Can you imagine what I have been fearing in the
"I had thought a little about that myself," I confessed. "But we are
not yet out of the woods, I am afraid."
"Hark! what's that?" said Mrs. Knapp apprehensively.
The carriage was now making its way through the bad stretch in the
lane, and there was little noise in its progress.
"I heard nothing," I said, putting down the window to listen. "What was
"I thought it was a shout."
There was no noise but the steady splash of horses' hoofs in the mud,
and the sloppy, shearing sound of the wheels as they cut through the
As we bumped and groaned again through the ruts, however, there arose
in the distance behind us the fierce barking of dogs, their voices
raised in anger and alarm.
There was a faint halloo, and a wilder barking followed. Then my ear
caught the splashing of galloping hoofs behind, and in a moment the man
of the house rode beside us.
"They've come," he said, "or, anyhow, somebody's come. I let the dogs
loose, and they will have a lively time for a while."
At his words there was another chorus of barks and shouts. Then a shot
rang out, and a fusillade followed with a mournful wail that died away
"Good Lord! they've shot the dogs," cried the man hotly. "I've a mind
to go back and pepper some of 'em."
"No," said Mrs. Knapp, "we may need you. Let us hurry!"
A few yards more brought us to the main road, and once on the firm
ground the horses trotted briskly forward, while the horseman dropped
behind, the better to observe and give the alarm.
"We were just in time," said Mrs. Knapp, trembling.
"Let us be thankful for so much," said I cheerfully.
"They will follow us," said Mrs. Knapp, with conviction in her tone.
"Not before they have broken into the house. That will keep them for
some time, I think."
"Is there no sign of pursuit?"
I leaned out of the window. Only the deadened sound of the hoofs of our
own horses, the deadened roll of our own carriage wheels, were audible
in the stillness of the night. Then I thought I heard yells and faint
hoof-beats in the distance, but again there was silence except for the
muffled noise we made in our progress.
"Can't we drive faster?" asked Mrs. Knapp, when I made my report.
"I wouldn't spoil these horses for five hundred dollars," growled the
driver when I passed him the injunction to hasten.
"It's a thousand dollars for you if you get to the wharf ahead of the
others," cried Mrs. Knapp.
"And you'll have a bullet in your hide if you don't keep out of gunshot
of them," I added.
The double inducement to haste had its effect, and we could feel the
swifter motion of the vehicle under us, and see the more rapid passage
of the trees and fences that lined the way.
The wild ride appeared to last for ages. The fast trot of the horses
was a funeral pace to the flight of my excited and anxious imagination.
What if we should be overtaken? The hack would offer no protection from
bullets, and Mrs. Knapp and the boy could scarcely escape injury if it
came to a close encounter. But whenever I looked back there was only
the single horseman galloping behind us, and the only sound to be heard
was that of our own progress.
At last the houses began to pass more frequently. Now the road was
broken by cross streets. Gas-lamps appeared, flickering faint and
yellow in the morning air, as though the long night vigil had robbed
them of their vitality. We were once more within city limits, and I
felt a loosening of the tense nerves of anxiety. The panting horses
never slackened pace. We swept over a long bridge, and plunged down a
shaded street, and the figure of the horseman was the only sign of life
behind us. Of a sudden there sounded a long roll, as of a great drum
beating the reveille for an army of giants. The horseman quickened his
pace and galloped furiously beside us.
"They're crossing the bridge," he shouted.
"Whip up!" I cried to the driver. "They are only four blocks behind
"Are they in sight?" asked Mrs. Knapp.
"I can not see them," I replied, "and it may not be the ones we fear.
It is near daybreak, and we are not the only ones astir."
I peered out, but a rising mist from the lagoon and the bay hindered
the vision, and the sound of the rolling drum had ceased.
The hack swung around a few corners, and then halted.
"Here we are!" cried Dicky Nahl at the door. "You get aboard the tug
and push off. Jake and I will run up to the foot of the wharf. If they
come, we can keep 'em off long enough for you to get aboard." Dicky had
a revolver in each hand, and the determined ring of his voice, so
different from his usual light bantering tone, gave me assurance of his
sincerity. With the horseman he hastened to the entrance of the wharf,
where the two loomed through the mist like shadow-men.
The tug was where it lay when we left, and at my hail the captain and
his crew of three were astir. It was a moment's work to get Mrs. Knapp
and her charge aboard.
"Come on!" I cried to Dicky and his companion. And as the lines were
cast off they made a running jump on to the deck of the tug boat, and
the vessel backed out into the stream.
As the wharf faded away into the mist that hung over the waters I
thought I saw shapes of men and horses rushing frantically to the edge,
and a massive figure waving its arms like a madman, and shouting
impotent curses into the air. But with the distance, the uncertain
light, and the curtain of mist that was thickening between us, my eyes
might have deceived me, and I omitted to mention my suspicions to Mrs.
When the mist and darkness had blotted out shore, wharves and shipping,
the tug moved at half-speed down the channel. I persuaded the captain
that there was no need to sound the whistle, but he declined gruffly to
increase his speed.
"I might as well be shot as run my boat ashore," he growled, with a few
emphatic seamanlike adjectives that appeared to belong to nothing in
particular. "And any one that doesn't like my way of running a boat can
get out and walk."
I did not know of any particular reason for arguing the question, so I
joined Mrs. Knapp.
"Thank God, we are safe!" she said, with a sigh of relief.
"We shall be in the city in half an hour, if that is safety," I said.
"It will be safety for a few days. Then we can devise a new plan. I
have a strong arm to lean on again."
"I think if you would tell me who the boy is, and why the danger
threatens him, I might help you more wisely."
"Perhaps you are right," said Mrs. Knapp thoughtfully. "You shall know
before it is necessary to make our next plans."
And then the boy called for her attention and I returned to the deck.
The light of the morning was growing. Vessels were moving. The whistles
of the ferry-boats, as they gave warning of their way through the mist,
rose shrill on the air. The waters were still, a faint ripple showing
in strange contrast to the scene of last night.
"There's a steamer behind us," said Dicky Nahl, with a worried look as
I joined him. "I've been listening to it for five minutes."
"It's a tug," said the captain. "She was lying on the other side of the
wharf last night."
"Good heavens!" I cried. "Put on full steam, then, or we shall be run
down in the bay. It's the gang we are trying to get away from."
The captain looked at me suspiciously for a moment, and was inclined to
resent my interference. Then he shrugged his shoulders as though it was
none of his business whether we were lunatics or not so long as we paid
for the privilege, and rang the engine bell for full speed ahead.
We had just come out of the Oakland Creek channel and the mist suddenly
thinned before us. It left the bay and the city fair and wholesome in
the gray light, as though the storm had washed the grime and foulness
from air and earth and renewed the freshness of life. The clear outline
of the hills was scarcely broken by smoke. The ever-changing beauties
of the most beautiful of bays took on the faint suggestion of a
livelier tint, the herald of the coming sun. We had come but a few
hundred yards into the clear air when out of the mist bank behind us
shot another tug, the smoke streaming from the funnel, the steam
puffing noisily from the escapes and the engine straining to increase
At the exclamation that broke from us, our captain for the first time
showed interest in the speed of his boat, and whistled angrily down to
"We can beat _her_" he said, with a contemptuous accent on the
"That's your business," I returned, and walked aft to where Mrs. Knapp
was standing, half-way up the steps from the cabin.
"There is Darby Meeker," I said, getting sight of him on the pursuing
"Can they catch us?" inquired Mrs. Knapp, the lines tightening about
"I think not--the captain says not. I should say that we were holding
our own now."
At this moment a tall, massive figure stepped from the pilot-house of
the pursuing tug and shook its fists at us. At the sight of the man my
heart stood still. The huge bulk, the wolf-face, just distinguishable,
distorted, dark with rage and passion, stopped the blood, and I felt a
faintness as of dropping from a height. With a gasp, life and voice
came back to me.
"Doddridge Knapp!" I cried.
Mrs. Knapp looked at me in alarm, and grasped the rail.
"No! no!" she exclaimed. "A thousand times no! That is Elijah Lane!"
I gazed at her in wonder. Not Doddridge Knapp! Had my eyes played me
"Do you not understand?" she said in a low, intense tone. "He is Elijah
Lane, the father of the boy. An evil, wicked man--mad--truly mad. He
would kill the boy. He killed the mother of the boy. I know, but it is
not a case for proof--not a case that the law can touch. And he hates
the boy--and me!"
I began to grasp the truth, and recovered speech.
"But why does he want to kill him? And would not the law punish the
"You do not understand. The boy inherits a great fortune from his
mother. Mr. Knapp and I are left trustees by the mother's will. If he
had control of the boy, the boy would die; but it would be from
cruelty, disease, neglect. It would not be murder in the eye of the
law. But I know what would happen. Oh, see the wretch! How he hates
I was stunned with the words I had heard. They made much plain that had
puzzled me, yet they left much more in darkness; and I looked blankly
at the figure on the other tug. It was truly a strange sight. The man
was beside himself with rage, shouting, gesticulating and leaping about
the deck in transports of passion. He showed every mark of a maniac.
Suddenly he drew a revolver and sent shot after shot in our direction.
We were far beyond the reach of a pistol bullet, but Mrs. Knapp
screamed and dodged.
"How he hates me!" she cried again.
When the last shot was gone from his revolver the man flung the weapon
in frenzy, as though he could hope to strike us thus.
Then a strange thing happened. Whether due to the effort he had made in
the throw, or to a lurch of the tug in the waves we left behind us, or
to a stumble over some obstruction, I could not say. But we saw the man
suddenly pitch forward over the low bulwarks of the tug into the waters
of the bay.
Mrs. Knapp gave a scream and covered her eyes.
"Stop the boat!" I shouted. "Back her!"
The other tug had checked its headway at the same time, and there was a
line of six or seven men along its side.
"There he is!" cried one.
The captain laid our tug across the tidal stream that swept us strongly
toward Goat Island. Then he steamed slowly toward the other tug.
"He's gone," said Dicky.
The other tug seemed anxious to keep away from us, as in distrust of
our good intentions. I scanned the waters carefully, but the drowning
man had gone down.
Then, rising not twenty feet away, floating for a moment on the surface
of the water, I saw plainly for the first time, the very caricature of
the face of Doddridge Knapp. The strong wolf-features which in the King
of the Street were eloquent of power, intellect and sagacity, were here
marked with the record of passion, hatred and evil life. I marveled now
that I had ever traced a likeness between them.
"Give me that hook!" I cried, leaning over the side of the tug. "Go
ahead a little."
One of the men threw a rope. It passed too far, and drifted swiftly
I made a wild reach with the hook, but it was too short. Just as I
thought I should succeed, the face gave a convulsive twitch, as if in a
parting outburst of hate and wrath, and the body sank out of sight. We
waited for a few minutes, but there was no further sign. The other tug
that had hovered near us turned about and made for the Oakland shore. I
signed to the captain to take his course for the city.
The men talked in subdued tones, and I stood half-bewildered, with a
bursting sense of relief, by Mrs. Knapp. At last she took her hands
from before her eyes, and the first rays of the sun that cleared the
tops of the Alameda Hills touched her calm, solemn, hopeful face.
"A new day has dawned," she said. "Let us give thanks to God."
THE END OF THE JOURNEY
For a few minutes we were silent. Water and land and sky started into
new glories at the touch of the rising sun. The many-hilled city took
on the hues of a fairy picture, and the windows gleamed with the magic
fires that were flashed back in greeting to the god of day. The few
cotton-ball clouds that lingered about the mountain-tops, sole
stragglers of the army that had trooped up from the south at the blast
of the rain-wind, turned from pink to white. The green-gray waters of
the bay rippled lightly in the tide as the tug sent the miniature
surges trailing in diverging lines from its bow. The curtain of mist
that hid the Alameda shore rose and lightened at the touch of the warm
rays. The white sails of the high-masted ships scattered through the
bay, drooped in graceful festoons as they turned to the sun to rid them
of the rain-water that clung to their folds. The ferry-boats, moving
with mock majesty, furnished the signs of life to the silent panorama.
It seemed scarcely possible that this was the raging, tossing water we
had crossed last night. And the fiery scene of passion and death we had
just witnessed was so foreign to its calm beauties, that I could
believe it had happened elsewhere in some dream of long ago.
I was roused by the voice of Mrs. Knapp, who sat at the head of the
cabin stairs, looking absently over the water.
"I have not dealt frankly with you," she said. "Perhaps it is better
that you should know, as you know so much already. I feel that I may
rely on your discretion."
"I think I can keep a secret," I replied, concealing my curiosity.
"I should not tell you if I did not have full confidence." Then she was
silent for a minute. "That man," she continued at last, with a shudder
in her voice, "that man was Mr. Knapp's brother."
I suppressed an exclamation, and she continued:
"They have little in common, even in looks. I wonder you thought for a
moment that he was Mr. Knapp. Few people who know them both have traced
"Perhaps those who do not know them would be more likely to find the
common points," I suggested. "Members of a family see only the
difference that marks one of them from another. The stranger at first
sees the family type in all and notes the differences later."
"Yes," said Mrs. Knapp. "It's like picking out the Chinamen. At first
they are all alike. We see only the race type. Afterward, we see the
many and marked differences."
"I think," said I, leading back to the main subject, "that the
remarkable circumstances under which I had seen Mr. Lane had a good
deal to do with the illusion. This morning, for the first time, I saw
his face under full light and close at hand."
Mrs. Knapp nodded. Then she continued:
"Mr. Knapp and his brother parted thirty years ago in Ohio. The
brother--the man who has just gone--was younger than Mr. Knapp, though
he looked older. He was wild in his youth. When he left home it was in
the night, and for some offense that would have brought him within
reach of the law. Mr. Knapp never told me what it was and I never
asked. For fifteen years nothing was heard of him. Mr. Knapp and I
married, we had come to San Francisco, and he was already a rising man
in the city. One day this man came. He had drifted to the coast in some
lawless enterprise, and by chance found his brother."
Mrs. Knapp paused.
"And at once began to live off of him, I suppose," I threw in as an
encouragement to proceed.
"Not exactly," said Mrs. Knapp. "He confessed some of his rascality to
Mr. Knapp, but pleaded that he was anxious to reform. Mr. Knapp agreed
to help him, but made the condition that he should take another name,
and should never allow the relationship to be known. Mr. Lane--I can
not call him by his true name--was ready to agree to the conditions. I
think he was very glad indeed to conceal himself under an assumed name,
and hide from the memory of his earlier years."
"Had his crimes then been so great?" I asked, as Mrs. Knapp again
ceased to speak.
"He had been a wicked, wicked man," said Mrs. Knapp. "The full tale of
his villainy I never knew, but he had been a negro stealer,--one of
those who captured free negroes or the darkies from Kentucky and
Missouri in the days before the war, and sold them down the river. He
had been the leader of a wild band in Arkansas and Texas, who made
their living by robbing travelers and stealing horses. He had been near
death a hundred times, yet he had escaped unhurt. Mr. Knapp helped him.
He prospered in business, bought a ranch, and turned farmer. To all
appearances, he had reformed completely. No one would suspect in the
Sonoma rancher the daring leader of the outlaws in Texas."
"I could believe anything of him," I said grimly.
"You have had a taste of his quality," said Mrs. Knapp. "Well, it was
seven years ago that he married. His wife was much younger than he,--a
lovely girl, and her parents were rich. How he got her I do not see. It
was his gift of the tongue, I suppose, for he could talk well. She was
not happy with him, but was better contented when, two years later, her
boy came. Mr. Lane was often from home, but I do not think she
regretted the neglect with which he treated her. He was not a man who
made his home pleasant while he was about. After a while he used to
disappear for weeks, spending the time in low haunts in the city, or
none knew where. Last year Mrs. Lane's father died, and she came in
under the will for more than a million dollars' worth of property. Then
Mr. Lane changed his habits. He became most attentive to his wife. He
looked to her wants, and appeared to the world as a model husband. But
more was going on than we knew. From the little she told me, from the
hints she dropped, she must have looked upon him with dread. She failed
rapidly in health, and six months ago she died."
"Murdered?" I asked.
"I believe it with all my soul," said Mrs. Knapp. "But there was no
evidence--not a particle. I tried to find it, but it was beyond the
power of the doctors to discover."
"And his motive?"
"He thought he was heir to her fortune. When he found that she had left
it with Mr. Knapp and me, in trust for the boy, his rage was frightful
to see. His servants told me of his dreadful ravings. He dared not say
a word to Mr. Knapp, but he came and spoke to me about it. I was afraid
for my life that time. He said that the money was his, and he said it
with such meaning that I felt assured he would stop at nothing to get
it. But when he spoke, I cut him so short that he visited the house but
once again. Before he had time to put any of his wicked thoughts into
action I took the boy to my home, thinking that there I could keep him
in safety. Mr. Knapp pooh-poohed my fears, and when Mr. Lane made a
demand for the child was in favor of giving him up. 'The father is the
one to care for the boy,' he said, and washed his hands of the whole
"Then Mr. Knapp had nothing to do with the affair, one way or the
"Oh, no--nothing at all. I believe, though, that Henry did use his name
with the police, to deter them from interfering with our plans."
I remembered Detective Coogan's words, and knew that she was correct in
"Mr. Lane," she continued, "threatened legal proceedings. But, knowing
his own past, and knowing that I knew something of it, too, he dared
not begin them. Mr. Knapp's feelings in the matter had made me
unwilling to keep the boy in my house, but at first I thought it the
best way of protecting him, and had him with me. Then one night the
house was broken into, and two men were discovered in the room where
the boy usually slept. I had taken him to my own bed that night, for he
was ailing, and so he escaped. The alarm was raised before they found
him, and the men fled. Mr. Knapp was confident that they were ordinary
housebreakers, but I knew better. I dared keep the boy there no longer,
and called Henry Wilton to assist me in making him safe. He found a
suitable house for the boy, and hired men to guard it. But after one
experience in which the place was attacked and almost carried by storm,
Henry thought it better to hide the boy and watch the enemy. The rest
Heaving a sigh as of relief, she went on:
"Mr. Lane was insane, I am certain. I tried to have Mr. Knapp take
steps to lock him up. But Mr. Knapp could not believe that his brother
was so wicked as to wish to take the life of his own child, and shut
his ears to the talk of his madness. I think he was fearful of a
scandal in which the relationship should become known, and the stories
of his brother's early days should come to the public. But there was a
time, a few weeks ago, when I was near spurring Mr. Knapp to action. It
was at the time of his trip to Virginia City. Mr. Lane came to the
house while I was away and scared the servants into fits with his
threats and curses. Luella had the courage and tact to face him and get
him out of the house, and I telegraphed for Mr. Knapp."
"I remember the occasion, though I didn't know what was going on."
"Well, Mr. Knapp was very angry, and had a long talk with Lane. He told
me that the creature cried and pleaded for forgiveness, and promised
amendment for the future. And Mr. Knapp believed him. Yet that very
night you were assailed with Luella in Chinatown."
The truth flashed on me. The groans and cries behind the locked door in
Doddridge Knapp's office, the voices which were like to one man
pleading and arguing with himself, were all explained.
"I think the assault was something of an accident," she continued; "or,
rather, it was more the doing of Terrill than of Lane."
"What was the cause of Terrill's enmity?" I asked. "He seemed to take a
hearty personal interest in the case for a hired man."
"For one thing, a family interest. I think he is a son of Lane's early
years. For another, he had a violent personal quarrel with Henry over
some matter, and you have had the benefit of the enmity. But I don't
think you'll hear of him again--or Meeker either. They will be in too
much of a hurry to leave the state."
I thought of Terrill lying bruised and sore at Livermore, and felt no
fear of him.
"You took great chances in sending me to Livermore," I said. "It might
have gone hard with Mr. Knapp's plans if I had not got back."
"I thought of that. But if the boy had been where I supposed all would
have been well. I should have telegraphed you before nightfall to
return. But in the distraction of my search I did not give up till
midnight. I left a telegram at the office to be sent you the first
thing in the morning, but by that time you were here. It was a bold
escape, and I feel that we owe you much for it."
At her last words we were at the wharf, and landed free from fear.
An hour later I reached my lodgings, sore with fatigue, and half-dead
for want of sleep. The excitement that had spurred my strength for the
last enterprise no longer supported me. I slept twenty-four hours in
peace, and no dream of Doddridge Knapp's brother or of the snake-eyes
of Tom Terrill disturbed my repose.
"I've heard about you," said Luella, when on the next evening I made my
bow to her. "But I want to hear all about it from yourself. Tell me,
"Where shall I begin?" I asked, looking into the most charming of
faces, which shone before me.
"How stupid to ask! At the beginning, of course."
"I was born of poor but honest parents"--I began.
Luella interrupted me with a laugh.
"How absurd you are! Anyhow, you can tell me about that later. Just
begin with the San Francisco beginning. Tell me why you came and all
"Very good," I said; "though really this part is much longer than the
Then I told her the story of my coming, of the murder of Henry Wilton,
of the struggles with death and difficulty that had given the spice of
variety to my life since I had come across the continent.
It was an inspiration to have such a listener. Under the encouragement
of her sympathy I found an unwonted flow of words and ideas. Laughter
and tears shone in her eyes as the ludicrous and sorrowful parts of my
experience touched her by turns. And at the end I found--I really don't
know how it happened--I found that I was clasping her hand and looking
up into her eyes in a trance of intoxication from the subtle magnetism
of her lovely presence.
For a minute we were silent.
"Oh," she cried softly, withdrawing her hand, and looking dreamily
away, "I knew it was right--that it must be right. You have justified
my faith, and more!"
"I am repaid for all by those words," I said. I am afraid I stared very
hard at her, but it was pleasant, indeed, to look into Luella's eyes
without any reservations or conscientious qualms in thinking of my duty
to hang her father.
"You deserve a much greater reward than that," said Luella.
"I want a much greater reward than that," said I boldly.
I did not think the courage was in me. But under the magnetic influence
of the woman before me I forgot what a poor devil I was. Luella looked
at me, and I saw in her eyes that she understood what I would say.
I do not know what I did say. I have no doubt it was very badly put,
but she listened seriously. Then she said:
"That's very nice of you to want me, but I am going to marry the
president of the Omega Company."
I turned sick with despair at these words so gently said, and a pang of
fierce jealousy, tinged with wonder, shot through me. "Surely she can't
be in love with that red-faced brute we fought with in the Omega
office," I thought. That was impossible. Besides, we had turned him
out. Doddridge Knapp would be president as soon as the new board of
directors elected its officers. She couldn't, of course, think of
marrying her own father. I could not understand what she meant, but I
knew I was furiously uncomfortable and wished I was rich enough to buy
up the company. Luella saw my distress as I tried to rise and fly from
"Don't go," she said gently. "What are you going to do with your men?"
"The free companions are to be disbanded," I said, recovering myself
with a gulp.
"Are any of them killed?" she asked in solicitous tones.
"No. Porter is pretty badly hurt. We got him down from Livermore to-
day. He was in the jail there, with Abrams and Brown. We gave bail for
them, and all the men are back at the Montgomery Street place.
Barkhouse is getting on all right, and there are a few bruises and cuts
scattered around in my flock. But they'll all be in trim for another
fight in two or three weeks."
"I suppose you'll be sorry to part with them."
"They are a faithful set, but I've had enough excitement for a while."
"And Mrs. Borton?"
"Is to be buried to-morrow."
"And you, Mr. Dudley?"
This question struck me a little blank. I had really not thought of
what I was going to do.
"It's another case of an occupation gone," I said rather ruefully.
"With the break-up of the plots and the close of the Omega deal, I am
at the end of my employments."
With this view of the question before me, I fell into a panic of
regrets, and began to blush furiously at my folly in imagining for an
instant that Luella could think of me for a husband.
"No," said Luella thoughtfully. "You are just at the beginning."
The tone, even more than the words, braced my nerves, and once more
there glowed within me a generous courage of the future.
"You are right I thank you," I said feelingly. "I have faith in the
"And I have faith--" said Luella. Then she stopped.
"In the man, I hope," I ventured.
Luella did not answer, but she gave me a look that meant more than
words. I was a trifle bewildered, wondering where I stood in the eyes
of this capricious young woman, but my speculations were cut short by
the coming of Mrs. Knapp.
There was no reservation in her greeting. Whatever lingering doubts of
me her mind had held, they had all melted away in the fire of that last
journey that had ended the struggle for the life of the boy. As we
talked over the events of the month, I found nothing left of the silent
opposition with which she had watched my growing friendship with the
daughter of the house. At last she cried:
"Oh, I had almost forgotten. Mr. Knapp wishes to see you in his room
before you go."
"I am at his service," I said, and went at once to the den of the Wolf.
"Ah, Wilton, I find you're not Wilton," he growled amiably. The loss of
his brother had not affected his spirits.
"Quite true," I said.
"You needn't explain," he said. "The women folks say it's all right,
though I don't quite understand it myself."
"I can tell you the story," I said.
"I don't want to hear it," he growled. "I've tried you, and that's
enough for me."
I murmured my appreciation and thanks for his good opinion.
The Wolf waved his hand as a disposal of all acknowledgments, and
"Have you any engagements that would keep you from taking the place of
president of the Omega Company?"
I fell back on the chair, speechless.
"There'll be a good salary," he continued. "Well, of course, you
needn't be in a hurry to accept. Take a day to think over it if you
like." The Wolf actually smiled.
"Oh, I don't need any time," I gasped. "I'll take it now."
"Well, you'll have to wait till the directors meet," he said.
I gave him my hearty thanks for the unlooked-for favor.
"To tell you the truth," he said, "it was the doing of the women
My heart gave a leap at the announcement, for it carried a great deal
more with it than Doddridge Knapp knew.
"I am a thousand times obliged to you--and the ladies," I said.
"Well, I wasn't unwilling," he said indulgently. "In fact, I intended
to do something handsome for you. But there's one condition I must
I looked my inquiry.
"You must not speculate. You haven't got the head for it."
"Thank you," I said. "I'll keep out, except under your orders."
"Right," he said. "You've the best head for carrying out orders I ever
The King of the Street waved me good night, and I went back to the
Luella was sitting where I had left her, and no one else was about. She
was looking demurely down and did not glance up till I was beside her.
"I have won a double prize," I said. "I am the president of Omega."
And I stooped and kissed her.