Part 4 out of 6
"See here, do you think I'm trying to hold out a yarn mitten on you?
I say there 'ain't been but the one. I was here when she came, and I
Discouraged by the paucity of clues which this place offered, Anderson
went next to the coroner's office.
The City Hall newspaper squad had desks in this place, but Paul paid
no attention to them or to their occupants. He went straight to the
wicket and asked for the effects of the dead girl.
It appeared that Burns had told his practical joke broadcast, for
the young man heard his name mentioned, and then some one behind him
snickered. He paid no attention, however, for the clerk had handed him
a small leather bag or purse, together with a morphine-bottle, about
the size and shape of an ordinary vaseline-bottle. The bag was cheap
and bore no maker's name or mark. Inside of it was a brooch, a ring, a
silver chain, and a slip of paper. Stuck to the bottom of the reticule
was a small key. Paul came near overlooking the last-named article,
for it was well hidden in a fold near the corner. Now a key to an
unknown lock is not much to go on at best, therefore he gave his
attention to the paper. It was evidently a scrap torn from a sheet of
wrapping-paper, and bore these figures in pencil:
While he was reading these figures Paul heard a reporter say, loudly,
"Now that I have written the paper, who will take it?"
Another answered, "I will."
"Who are you?" inquired the first voice.
"Hawkshaw, the detective."
Anderson's cheeks flushed, but he returned the bag and its contents
without comment and walked out, heedless of the laughter of the
six reporters. The injustice of their ridicule burnt him like a
branding-iron, for his only offense lay in trying the impossible.
These fellows had done their best and had failed, yet they jeered at
him because he had tackled a forlorn hope. They had taken the trail
when it was hot and had lost it; now they railed at him when he took
All that afternoon he tramped the streets, thinking, thinking, until
his brain went stale. The only fresh clues he had discovered thus
far were the marks on finger and thumb, the fact that the girl was a
Canadian, and that she had possessed but one mitten instead of two.
This last, for obvious reasons, was too trivial to mean anything, and
yet in so obscure a case it could not be ignored. The fact that she
was a Canadian helped but little, therefore the best point upon which
to hang a line of reasoning seemed to be those black spots on the left
hand. But they stumped Anderson absolutely.
He altered his mental approach to the subject and reflected upon the
girl's belongings. Taken in their entirety they showed nothing save
that the girl was poor, therefore he began mentally to assort them,
one by one. First, clothes. They were ordinary clothes; they betrayed
nothing. Second, the purse. It was like a million other purses and
showed no distinguishing mark, no peculiarity. Third, the jewelry. It
was cheap and common, of a sort to be found in any store. Fourth, the
morphine-bottle. Paul was forced likewise to dismiss consideration of
that. There remained nothing but the scrap of paper, torn from the
corner of a large sheet and containing these penciled figures:
It was a simple sum in subtraction, a very simple sum indeed; too
simple, Anderson reflected, for any one to reduce to figures unless
those figures had been intended for a purpose. He recalled the face
at the morgue and vowed that such a girl could have done the sum
mentally. Then why the paper? Why had she taken pains to tear off a
piece of wrapping-paper, jot down figures so easy to remember,
and preserve them in her purse? Why, she did so because she was
methodical, something answered. But, his alter ego reasoned, if she
had been sufficiently methodical to note a trivial transaction so
carefully, she would have been sufficiently methodical to use some
better, some more methodical method. She would not have torn off a
corner of thick wrapping-paper upon which to keep her books. There was
but one answer, memorandum!
All right, memorandum it was, for the time being. Now then, in what
business could she have been engaged where she found it necessary to
keep memoranda of such inconsiderable sums? Oh, Lord! There were a
million! Paul had been walking on thin ice from the start; now it gave
way beneath him, so he abandoned this train of thought and went back
once more to the bundle of clothes. Surely there was a clue concealed
somewhere among them, if only he could find it. They were poor
clothes, and yet, judging by their cut, he fancied the girl had looked
exceedingly well in them--nay, even modish. She had evidently spent
much time on them, as the beautiful needlework attested. At this point
Anderson's mind ran out on to thin ice again, so he reverted to the
girl herself for the _n_th time. She was Canadian, her hands were
useful, there were tiny blood-blisters on the left thumb and index
finger, and the skin was roughened and torn minutely, evidently by
some sharp instrument. What instrument? He answered the question
almost before he had voiced it. A needle, of course!
Paul stopped in his walk so abruptly that a man poked him in the back
with a ladder; but he paid no heed, for his mind was leaping. That
thickening of the skin, those tiny scratches, those blood-blisters,
those garments without mark of maker, yet so stylish in cut and so
carefully made, and furthermore that memorandum:
"Why, she was a dressmaker!" said Anderson, out loud. He went back
over his reasoning, but it held good--so good that he would have
wagered his own clothes that he was right. Yes, and those figures
represented some trifling purchases or commission--for a customer, no
It followed naturally that she was not a Buffalo dressmaker, else she
would have been identified long since; nor was it likely that she came
from any city, for her clothes had not given him the impression of
being city-made, and, moreover, the publicity given to the case
through the press, even allowing for the fact that the printed
description had been vague, would have been sure to uncover her
identity. No, she was a Canadian country seamstress.
The young man's mind went back a few years to his boyhood on a
Michigan farm, where visiting dressmakers used to come and stay by the
week to make his mother's clothes. They usually carried a little
flat trunk filled with patterns, yard sticks, forms, and other
paraphernalia of the trade. Paul remembered that the owners used to
buy the cloths and materials at the country stores, and render a
strict accounting thereof to his mother. Well, where was the trunk
that went with this country dressmaker?
The question of baggage had puzzled him from the start. Had the girl
been possessed of a grip or bundle of any kind at the time of her
death that question would have been answered. But there was absolutely
nothing of the sort in her room. Her complete lack of luggage had
made him doubt, at first, that she was an out-of-town visitor; but,
following his recent conclusions, he decided now that directly the
opposite was true. She had come to Buffalo with nothing but a trunk,
otherwise she would have taken her hand-luggage with her to the Main
Street rooming-house. It remained to find that trunk.
This problem threatened even greater difficulties than any hitherto,
and Paul shivered as the raw Lake wind searched through his clothes.
He wondered if it had been as cold as this when the girl arrived in
Buffalo. Yes, assuredly. Then why did she go out with only one mitten?
His reason told him that the other one had been lost by the police.
But the police are careful, as a rule. They had saved every other
article found in the girl's possession, even to a brooch and pin and
scrap of paper. Probably the girl herself had lost it. But country
dressmakers are careful, too; they are not given to losing mittens,
especially in cold weather. It was more reasonable to believe that she
had mislaid it among her belongings; inasmuch as those belongings,
according to Paul's logic, were doubtless contained in her trunk, that
was probably where the missing mitten would be found. But, after all,
had she really brought a trunk with her?
Like a flash came the recollection of that key stuck to the bottom of
the girl's leather purse at the coroner's office. Ten minutes later
Paul was back at the City Hall.
For a second time he was greeted with laughter by the reportorial
squad; again he paid no heed.
"Why, you saw those things not two hours ago," protested the coroner's
clerk, in answer to his inquiry.
"I want to see them again."
"Well, I'm busy. You've had them once, that's enough."
"Friend," said Anderson, quietly, "I want those things and I want them
quick. You give them to me or I'll go to the man higher up and get
them--and your job along with them."
The fellow obeyed reluctantly. Paul picked the key loose and examined
it closely. While he was thus engaged, one of the reporters behind him
"Aha! At last he has the key to the mystery."
The general laughter ceased abruptly when the object of this banter
thrust the key into his pocket and advanced threateningly toward the
speaker, his face white with rage. The latter rose to his feet; he
undertook to execute a dignified retreat, but Anderson seized him
viciously, flung him back, and pinned him against the wall, crying,
"You dirty rat! If you open your face to me again, I'll brain you, and
that goes for all of this death-watch." He took in the other five men
with his reddened eyes. "When you fellows see me coming, hole up.
His grip was so fierce, his mouth had such a wicked twist to it, that
his victim understood him perfectly and began to grin in a sickly,
apologetic fashion. Paul reseated the reporter at his desk with
such violence that a chair leg gave way; then he strode out of the
For the next few hours Anderson tramped the streets in impotent anger,
striving to master himself, for that trifling episode had so upset him
that he could not concentrate his mind upon the subject in hand. When
he tried to do so his conclusions seemed grotesquely fanciful and
farfetched. This delay was all the more annoying because on the morrow
the girl was to be buried, and, therefore, the precious hours
were slipping away. He tried repeatedly to attain that abstract,
subconscious mood in which alone shines the pure light of inductive
"Where is that trunk? Where is that trunk? Where is that trunk?" he
repeated, tirelessly. Could it be in some other rooming-house? No. If
the girl had disappeared from such a place, leaving her trunk behind,
the publicity would have uncovered the fact. It might be lying in the
baggage-room of some hotel, to be sure; but Paul doubted that, for the
same reason. The girl had been poor, too; it was unlikely that she
would have gone to a high-priced hotel. Well, he couldn't examine all
the baggage in all the cheap hotels of the city--that was evident.
Somehow he could not picture that girl in a cheap hotel; she was too
fine, too patrician. No, it was more likely that she had left her
trunk in some railroad station. This was a long chance, but Paul took
The girl had come from Canada, therefore Anderson went to the Grand
Trunk Railway depot and asked for the baggage-master. There were other
roads, but this seemed the most likely.
A raw-boned Irish baggage-man emerged from the confusion, and of a
sudden Paul realized the necessity of even greater tact here than he
had used with the Scotch girl, for he had no authority of any sort
behind him by virtue of which he could demand so much as a favor.
"Are you a married man?" he inquired, abruptly.
"G'wan! I thought ye wanted a baggage-man," the big fellow replied.
"Don't kid me; this is important."
"Shure, I am, but I don't want any accident insurance. I took a chance
and I'm game."
"Have you any daughters?"
"Two of them. But what's it to ye?"
"Suppose one of them disappeared?"
The baggage-man seized Anderson by the shoulder; his eyes dilated;
with a catch in his voice he cried:
"Love o' God, speak out! What are ye drivin' at?"
"Nothing has happened to your girls, but--"
"Then what in hell--?"
"Wait! I had to throw a little scare into you so you'd understand what
I'm getting at. Suppose one of your girls lay dead and unidentified
in the morgue of a strange city and was about to be buried in the
Potter's Field. You'd want to know about it, wouldn't you?"
"Are ye daft? Or has something really happened? If not, it's a damn
fool question. What d'ye want?"
"Listen! You'd want her to have a decent burial, and you'd want her
mother to know how she came to such a pass, wouldn't you?"
The Irishman mopped his brow uncertainly. "I would that."
"Then listen some more." Paul told the man his story, freely,
earnestly, but rapidly; he painted the picture of a shy, lonely girl,
homeless, hopeless and despondent in a great city, then the picture of
two old people waiting in some distant farmhouse, sick at heart and
uncertain, seeing their daughter's face in the firelight, hearing
her sigh in the night wind. He talked in homely words that left the
baggage-man's face grave, then he told how Burns, in a cruel jest, had
sent a starving boy out to solve the mystery that had baffled the best
detectives. When he had finished his listener cried:
"Shure it was a rotten trick, but why d'ye come here?"
"I want you to go through your baggage-room with me till we find a
trunk which this key will fit."
"Come on with ye. I'm blamed if I don't admire yer nerve. Of course
ye understand I've no right to let ye in--that's up to the
station-master, but he's a grouchy divil." The speaker led Paul into
a room piled high with trunks, then summoned two helpers. "We'll move
every dam' wan of them till we fit your little key," he declared; then
the four men fell to.
A blind search promised to be a job of hours, so Paul walked down the
runway between the piles of trunks, using his eyes as he went. At
least he could eliminate certain classes of baggage, and thus he might
shorten the search; but half-way down the row he called sharply to the
"Come here, quick!" At his tone they came running. "Look! that one in
the bottom row!" he cried. "That's it. Something tells me it is."
On the floor underneath the pile was a little, flat, battered tin
trunk, pathetically old-fashioned and out of place among its more
stylish neighbors; it was the kind of trunk Paul had seen in his
mother's front room on the farm. It was bound about with a bit of
His excitement infected the others, and the three smashers went at the
pile, regardless of damage. Anderson's suspense bid fair to choke him;
what if this were not the one? he asked himself. But what if it were
the right one? What if this key he clutched in his cold palm should
fit the lock? Paul pictured what he would see when he lifted the lid:
a collection of forms, hangers, patterns, yard-sticks, a tape measure,
and somewhere in it a little black yarn mitten. He prayed blindly for
courage to withstand disappointment.
"There she is," panted his Irish friend, dragging the object out into
the clear. The other men crowded closer. "Come on, lad. What are ye
Anderson knelt before the little battered trunk and inserted the key.
It was the keenest moment he had ever lived. He turned the key; then
he was on his feet, cold, calm, his blue eyes glittering.
"Cut those ropes. Quick!" he ordered. "We're right."
The man at his side whipped out a knife and slashed twice.
"Come close, all of you," Paul directed, "and remember everything we
find. You may have to testify."
He lifted the lid. On the top of the shallow tray lay a little black
yarn mitten, the mate to that one in the city Morgue.
Anderson smiled into the faces of the men at his side. "That's it," he
The tall Irishman laid a hand on his shoulder, saying: "Yer all right,
boy. Don't get rattled,"
Paul opened the till and found precisely the paraphernalia he had
expected: there were forms, hangers, patterns, yard-sticks, and a tape
measure. In the compartment beneath were some neatly folded clothes,
the needlework of which was fine, and in one corner a bundle of
letters which Anderson examined with trembling fingers. They were
addressed to "Miss Mabel Wilkes, Highland, Ontario, Canada, Care of
The amateur detective replaced the letters carefully; he closed and
locked the trunk; then he thanked his companions.
"If I had a dollar in the world," said he, "I'd ask you boys to have a
drink, but I'm broke." Then he began to laugh foolishly, hysterically,
until the raw-boned man clapped him on the back again.
"Straighten up, lad. Ye've been strained a bit too hard. I'll
telephone for the cops."
In an instant Paul was himself. "You'll do nothing of the sort," he
cried. "Why, man, you'll spoil the whole thing. I've worked this out
alone, and if the police hear of it they'll notify all the papers and
I'll have no story. Burns won't give me that job, and I'll be hungry
"True! I forgot that fat-headed divil of an editor. Well, you say the
word and nobody won't know nothin' from us. Hey, boys?"
"Sure not," the other men agreed. This lad was one of their kind; he
was up against it and fighting for his own, therefore they knew how to
sympathize. But Paul had been seized with terror lest his story might
get away from him, therefore he bade them a hasty good-by and sped
up-town. His feet could not carry him swiftly enough.
Burns greeted him sourly when he burst into the editorial sanctum. It
was not yet twenty-four hours since he had sent this fellow away with
instructions not to return.
"Are you back again?" he snarled. "I heard about your assaulting Wells
down at the City Hall. Don't try it on me or I'll have you pinched."
Paul laughed lightly. "I don't have to fight for my rights any more."
"Indeed! What are you grinning about? Have you found who that girl
"_What?_" Burns's jaw dropped limply; he leaned forward in his chair.
"Yes, sir! I've identified her."
The fat man was at first incredulous, then suspicious. "Don't try any
tricks on me," he cried, warningly. "Don't try to put anything over--"
"Her name is Mabel Wilkes. She is the daughter of Captain Wilkes, of
Highland, Ontario. She was a country dressmaker and lived with her
people at that place. Her trunk is down at the Grand Trunk depot with
the rest of her clothes in it, together with the mate to the mitten
she had when she killed herself. I went through the trunk with the
baggage-master, name Corrigan. Here's the key which I got from her
purse at the coroner's office."
Burns fixed his round eyes upon the key, then he shifted them slowly
to Anderson's face. "Why--why--this is amazing! I--I--" He cleared his
throat nervously. "How did you discover all this? Who told you?"
"Nobody told me. I reasoned it out."
"But how--Good Lord! Am I dreaming?"
"I'm a good newspaper man. I've been telling you that every day. Maybe
you'll believe me now."
Burns made no reply. Instead, he pushed a button and Wells, of the
City Hall squad, entered, pausing abruptly at sight of Anderson.
Giving the latter no time for words, Mr. Burns issued his
instructions. On the instant he was the trained newspaper man again,
cheating the clock dial and trimming minutes: his words were sharp and
"That suicide story has broken big and we've got a scoop. Anderson has
identified her. Take the first G.T. train for Highland, Ontario, and
find her father, Captain Wilkes. Wire me a full story about the girl
Mabel, private life, history, everything. Take plenty of space. Have
it in by midnight."
Wells's eyes were round, too; they were glued upon Paul with a
hypnotic stare, but he managed to answer, "Yes, sir!" He was no longer
"Now, Anderson," the editor snapped, "get down-stairs and see if you
can write the story. Pile it on thick--it's a corker."
"Very good, sir, but I'd like a little money," that elated youth
demanded, boldly. "Just advance me fifty, will you? Remember I'm on
Burns made a wry face. "I'll send a check down to you," he promised,
"but get at that story and make it a good one or I'll fire you
Anderson got. He found a desk and began to write feverishly. A
half-hour later he read what he had written and tore it up. Another
half-hour and he repeated the performance. Three times he wrote the
tale and destroyed it, then paused, realizing blankly that as a
newspaper story it was impossible. Every atom of interest surrounding
the suicide of the girl grew out of his own efforts to solve the
mystery. Nothing had happened, no new clues had been uncovered, no one
had been implicated in the girl's death, there was no crime. It was
a tale of Paul Anderson's deductions, nothing more, and it had no
newspaper value. He found he had written about himself instead of
about the girl.
He began again, this time laboriously eliminating himself, and when he
had finished his story it was perhaps the poorest journalistic effort
Upon lagging feet he bore the copy to Burns's office. But the editor
gave him no time for explanation, demanding, fiercely:
"Where's that check I sent you?"
"Here it is." The youth handed it to him. "Make a mistake?"
"I certainly did." Burns tore up the check before saying, "Now you get
out, you bum, and stay out, or take the consequences."
"Get out? What for?"
"You know what for." Burns was quivering with rage. "You ran a good
bluff and you nearly put it over; but I don't want to advertise myself
as a jackass, so I shan't have you pinched unless you come back."
"Come back? I intend to stay. What's the matter?"
"I had an idea you were fourflushing," stormed the editor, "so I went
down to the G.T. depot myself. There's no trunk of the sort there;
Corrigan never saw you or anybody like you. Say, why didn't you walk
out when you got that check? What made you come back?"
Anderson began to laugh softly. "Good old Corrigan! He's all right,
isn't he? Well, he gets half of that check when you rewrite it, if I
don't laugh myself to death before I get to the bank."
"What d'you mean?" Burns was impressed by the other's confidence.
"Nothing, except that I've found one square man in this village. One
square guy is a pretty big percentage in a town the size of Buffalo.
Corrigan wouldn't let you see the depot if I wasn't along. Put on your
coat and come with me--yes, and bring a couple of hired men if it will
make you feel any better."
At the depot he called the baggage-master to him, and said:
"Mr. Corrigan, this is Mr. Burns, the city editor of _The
"That's what he told me," grinned the Irishman, utterly ignoring the
young editor; "but you didn't give him no references, and I wouldn't
take a chance."
Burns maintained a dignified silence; he said little even when the
contents of the trunk were displayed to him. Nor did he open his mouth
on the way back to the office. But when he was seated at his desk and
had read Anderson's copy he spoke.
"This is the rottenest story ever turned in at this office," said he.
"I know it is," Paul agreed, frankly, then explained his difficulty in
"I'll do it myself," Burns told him. "Now, you go home and report
A very tired but a very happy young man routed out the landlady of a
cheap boarding-house that night and hugged her like a bear, explaining
joyously that he had done a great big thing. He waltzed her down the
hall and back, while she clutched wildly at her flapping flannel
wrapper and besought him to think of her other boarders. He waltzed
her out of her bedroom slippers, gave her a smacking big kiss on her
wrinkled cheek, then left her, breathless and scandalized, but all
The city had read the story when Anderson awoke the next morning, for
_The Intelligencer_ had made a clean "beat," and Burns had played up
the story tremendously, hence it was with jumping pulses that Paul
scanned the front page of that journal. The further he read, however,
the greater grew his indignation.
The history of Mabel Wilkes, under the magic touch of Burns, had,
to be sure, become a wonderful, tragic story; but nowhere in it was
mention made of Paul Anderson. In the patient and ingenious solution
of the mystery of the girl's identity no credit was given to him. The
cleverness and the perseverance of _The Buffalo Intelligencer_ was
exploited, its able reportorial staff was praised, its editorial
shrewdness extolled, but that was all. When he had concluded reading
the article Anderson realized that it was no more than a boost for the
city editor, who it was plain to be seen, had uncovered the story
bit by bit, greatly to the confusion of the police and the detective
It astounded as well as angered Paul to realize how cleverly Burns had
covered him up, therefore the sense of injustice was strong in him
when he entered the office. His enemy recognized his mood, and seemed
to gloat over it.
"That was good work you did," he purred, "and I'll keep you on as long
as you show ability. Of course you can't write yet, so I'll let you
cover real-estate transactions and the market. I'll send for you when
Anderson went back to his desk in silent rage. Real estate! Burns
evidently intended to hold him down. His gloomy meditations were
somewhat lightened by the congratulations of his fellow-reporters, who
rather timidly ventured to introduce themselves. They understood the
facts and they voiced a similar indignation to his. Burns had played
him a rotten trick, they agreed. Not content with robbing his new
reporter of the recognition which was justly his, the fellow was
evidently determined to vent his spite in other ways. Well, that was
like Burns. They voiced the opinion that Anderson would have a tough
job getting through interference of the kind that their editor would
throw in his way.
Hour after hour Paul sat around the office nursing his disappointment,
waiting for Burns to send him out. About two o'clock Wells hurried
into the office, bringing with him the afternoon papers still wet from
the press. In his eyes was an unwonted sparkle. He crossed directly to
Anderson and thrust out his palm.
"Old man, I want to shake with you," said he. "And I want to apologize
for being a rotter."
Paul met him half-way, and the fellow went on:
"Burns gave us the wrong tip on you--said you were a joke--that's why
we joshed you. But you showed us up, and I'm glad you did."
"Why--thank you!" stammered the new reporter, upon whom this manly
apology had a strong effect. "It--it was more luck than anything."
"Luck nothing! You're a genius, and it's a dirty shame the way the
boss tried to steal your credit. However, it seems he overreached
himself." Wells began to laugh.
"_Tried_ to steal it! Good Lord! he did steal it! How do you mean he
"Haven't you seen the afternoon papers?"
"Well! Read 'em!" Mr. Wells spread his papers out before Paul, whose
astonished eyes took in for a second time the story of the Wilkes
suicide. But what a story!
He read his own name in big, black type; he read head-lines that told
of a starving boy sent out on a hopeless assignment as a cruel joke;
he read the story as it had really occurred, only told in the third
person by an author who was neither ashamed nor afraid to give
credit where it was due. The egotistical pretense of _The Buffalo
Intelligencer_ was torn to shreds, and ridicule was heaped upon its
editor. Paul read nervously, breathlessly, until Wells interrupted
"I'm to blame for this," said he. "I couldn't stand for such a crooked
deal. When I got in this morning and saw what that fat imbecile had
done to you I tipped the true facts off to the others--all of the
facts I knew. They got the rest from Corrigan, down at the Grand Trunk
depot. Of course this means my job, if the old man finds it out; but I
don't give a damn."
As yet Anderson was too dazed to grasp what had happened to him, but
the other continued:
"The boys have had it in for Burns, on the quiet, for months, and now
I guess they're even."
"I--I don't know how to thank you," stammered Anderson.
"Don't try. You're a born reporter, and the other papers will give you
a job even if the baby hippo in yonder fires you."
A boy touched Paul on the arm with the announcement, "Mr. Burns wants
to see you."
"Oho!" cried Wells. "He's got the bad news. Gee! I'd like to hear what
he says. I'll bet he's biting splinters out of his desk. Let me know
what comes off, will you?"
When Anderson entered the office of his editor he was met by a
white-faced man whose rage had him so by the throat that speech for a
moment was impossible. Beneath Mr. Burns's feet, and strewn broadcast
about the room, were the crumpled sheets of the afternoon papers.
Burns glared at the newcomer for a moment, then he extended a shaking
finger, crying, furiously:
"You did this!"
"You put up this job. You made a fool of me!"
"No, sir! I did not. Your parents saw to that."
"Don't tell me you didn't, you--you damned ungrateful--" Burns seemed
about to assault his reporter, but restrained himself. "You're fired!
Do you understand? Fired--discharged."
"Not a word. I'm done with you. I--"
"Just a minute," young Anderson cried, in a tone that stilled the
other. "I'm fired, am I, for something I didn't do? Very well!
I'm glad of it, for now you can't stand in my way. You tried to
double-cross me and failed. You robbed me of what was mine and got
caught at it. You're a big man, in your way, Burns, but some day
people will tell you that the biggest thing you ever did was to fire
Paul Anderson. That's how small you'll be, and that's how big I'm
going to grow. You've 'welched' on your own word; but there's one
thing you gave me that you can't take away, and that's the knowledge
that I'm a newspaper man and a good one. Now just one thing more: I'm
broke today, but I'm going to lick you as soon as I save up enough for
With studied insolence the speaker put on his hat, slammed the door
behind him, and walked out of _The Intelligencer_ office, leaving the
apoplectic editor thereof secure in the breathless knowledge that for
once in his life he had heard the truth spoken. Mr. Burns wondered how
long it would take that young bully to save up ten dollars and costs.
OUT OF THE NIGHT
"There is but one remedy for your complaint." Doctor Suydam settled
deeper into his chair. "Marry the girl."
"That is the only piece of your professional advice I ever cared to
follow. But how?"
"Any way you can--use force if necessary--only marry her. Otherwise I
predict all sorts of complications for you--melancholia, brain-fag,
Austin laughed. "Could you write me a prescription?"
"Oh, she'll have you, Bob. You don't seem to realize that you are a
Austin finished buckling his puttee before rising to his full height.
"That doesn't mean anything to her. She doesn't need to make a catch."
"Nonsense! She's just like all the others, only richer and nicer. Go
at her as if she were the corn-market; she won't be half so hard to
corner. You have made a name for yourself, and a blamed sight more
money than you deserve; you are young--comparatively, I mean."
The elder man stroked his shock of iron-gray hair for answer.
"Well, at any rate you are a picturesque personage, even if you can't
"Doesn't a man look like the devil in these togs?" Austin posed
awkwardly in front of a mirror.
"There's only one person who can look worse in riding-clothes than a
man--that's a woman."
"What heresy, particularly in a society doctor! But I agree with you.
I learned to ride on her account, you know. As a matter of fact, I
hate it. The sight of a horse fills me with terror."
Doctor Suydam laughed outright at this. "She tells me that you have a
very good seat."
"Really!" Austin's eyes gleamed suddenly. "You know I never had
a chance to ride when I was a youngster--in fact, I never had an
opportunity to do anything except work. That's what makes me so crude
and awkward. What I know I have picked up during the last few years."
"You make me tired!" declared the former. "You aren't--"
"Oh, I don't skate on waxed floors nor spill tea, nor clutch at my
chauffeur in a tight place, but you know what I mean. I feel lonesome
in a dress-suit, a butler fills me with gloom, and--Well, I'm not one
of you, that's all."
"Perhaps that's what makes a hit with Marmion. She's used to the other
"It seems to me that I have always worked," ruminated the former
speaker. "I don't remember that I ever had time to play, even after
I came to the city. It's a mighty sad thing to rob a boy of his
childhood; it makes him a dull, unattractive sort when he grows up.
I used to read about people like Miss Moore, but I never expected to
know them until I met you. Of course, that corn deal rather changed
"Well, I should rather say it did!" Suydam agreed, with emphasis.
"The result is that when I am with her I forget the few things I have
done that are worth while, and I become the farm-hand again. I'm
naturally rough and angular, and she sees it."
"Oh, you're too sensitive! You have a heart like a girl underneath
that saturnine front of yours, and while you look like the Sphinx,
you are really as much of a kid at heart as I am. Where do you ride
"What horse is she riding?"
The doctor shook his head. "Too many automobiles on the Drive. He's a
rotten nag for a woman, anyhow. His mouth is as tough as a stirrup,
and he has the disposition of a tarantula. Why doesn't she stick to
"You know Marmion."
"Say, wouldn't it be great if Pointer bolted and you saved her life?
She couldn't refuse you then."
Austin laughed. "That's not exactly the way I'd care to win her.
However, if Pointer bolted I'd probably get rattled and fall off my
own horse. I don't like the brutes. Come on, I'm late."
"That's right," grumbled the other, "leave me here while you make
love to the nicest girl in New York. I'm going down to the office and
They descended the single flight to the street, where Austin's groom
was struggling with a huge black.
"It's coming pretty soft for you brokers," the doctor growled, as his
companion swung himself into the saddle. "The next time I get a friend
I'll keep him to myself."
Austin leaned forward with a look of grave anxiety upon his rugged
features and said: "Wish me luck, Doc. I'm going to ask her to-day."
"Good for you, old fellow." There was great fondness in the younger
man's eyes as he wrung the rider's hand and waved him adieu, then
watched him disappear around the corner.
"She'll take him," he mused, half aloud. "She's a sensible girl even
if all New York has done its best to spoil her." He hailed a taxicab
and was hurried to his office.
It was perhaps two hours later that he was called on the telephone.
"Hello! Yes, yes! What is it?" he cried, irritably. "Mercy Hospital!
_What_?" The young physician started. "Hurt, you say? Run-away? Go on,
quick!" He listened with whitening face, then broke in abruptly: "Of
course he sent for me. I'll be right up."
He slammed the receiver upon its hook and, seizing his hat, bolted out
through a waiting-room full of patients. His car was in readiness, and
he called to his chauffeur in such tones that the fellow vaulted to
"Go up Madison Avenue; there's less traffic there. And for God's sake
During two years' service with New York's most fashionable physician
the driver had never received a command like this, and he opened up
his machine. A policeman warned him at Thirty-third Street and the car
slowed down, at which Suydam leaned forward, crying, roughly:
"To hell with regulations! There's a man dying!"
The last word was jerked from him as he was snapped back into his
seat. Regardless of admonitory shouts from patrolmen, the French
car sang its growing song, while truck-drivers bellowed curses
and pedestrians fled from crossings at the scream of its siren. A
cross-town car blocked them, and the brakes screeched in agony, while
Doctor Suydam was well-nigh catapulted into the street; then they were
under way again, with the car leaping from speed to speed. It was the
first time the driver had ever dared to disregard those upraised,
white-gloved hands, and it filled his joy-riding soul with exultation.
A street repair loomed ahead, whereupon, with a sickening skid, they
swung into a side street; the gears clashed again, and an instant
later they shot out upon Fifth Avenue. At the next corner they lay
motionless in a blockade, while the motor shuddered; then they dodged
through an opening where the mud-guards missed by an inch and were
whirling west toward Broadway. At 109th Street a bicycle officer
stared in amazement at the dwindling number beneath the rear axle,
then ducked his head and began to pedal. He overhauled the speeding
machine as it throbbed before the doors of Mercy Hospital, to be
greeted by a grinning chauffeur who waved him toward the building and
told of a doctor's urgency.
Inside, Doctor Suydam, pallid of face and shaking in a most
unprofessional manner, was bending over a figure in riding-clothes,
the figure of a tall, muscular man who lay silent, deaf to his words
They told him all there was to tell in the deadly, impersonal way
of hospitals, while he nodded swift comprehension. There had been a
runaway--a woman on a big, white-eyed bay, that had taken fright at an
automobile; a swift rush up the Driveway, a lunge over the neck of
the pursuing horse, then a man wrenched from his saddle and dragged
beneath cruel, murderous hoofs. The bay had gone down, and the woman
was senseless when the ambulance arrived, but she had revived and
had been hurried to her home. In the man's hand they had found the
fragment of a bridle rein gripped with such desperation that they
could not remove it until he regained consciousness. He had asked
regarding the girl's safety, then sighed himself into oblivion again.
They told Suydam that he would die.
With sick heart the listener cursed all high-spirited women and
high-strung horses, declaring them to be works of the devil, like
automobiles; then he went back to the side of his friend, where other
hands less unsteady were at work.
"Poor lonely old Bob!" he murmured. "Not a soul to care except Marmion
and me, and God knows whether she cares or not."
* * * * *
But Robert Austin did not die, although the attending surgeons said
he would, said he should, in fact, unless all the teachings of their
science were at fault. He even offended the traditions of the hospital
by being removed to his own apartments in a week. There Suydam, who
had watched him night and day, told him that Miss Moore had a broken
shoulder and hence could not come to see him.
"Poor girl!" said Austin, faintly. "If I'd known more about horses I
might have saved her."
"If you'd known more about horses you'd have let Pointer run,"
declared his friend. "Nobody but an idiot or a Bob Austin would have
taken the chance you did. How is your head?"
The sick man closed his eyes wearily. "It hurts all the time. What's
the matter with it?"
"We've none of us been able to discover what isn't the matter with it!
Why in thunder did you hold on so long?"
"Because I--I love her, I suppose."
"Did you ask her to marry you?" Suydam had been itching to ask the
question for days.
"No, I was just getting to it when Pointer bolted. I--I'm slow at such
things." There was a moment's pause. "Doc, what's the matter with my
eyes? I can't see very well."
"Don't talk so much," ordered the physician. "You're lucky to be here
at all. Thanks to that copper-riveted constitution of yours, you'll
But it seemed that the patient was fated to disappoint the predictions
of his friend as well as those of the surgeons at Mercy Hospital. He
did not recover in a manner satisfactory to his medical adviser, and
although he regained the most of his bodily vigor, the injury to his
eyes baffled even the most skilled specialists.
He was very brave about it, however, and wrung the heart of Doctor
Suydam by the uncomplaining fortitude with which he bore examination
after examination. Learned oculists theorized vaporously about optic
atrophies, fractures, and brain pressures of one sort and another; and
meanwhile Robert Austin, in the highest perfection of bodily vigor, in
the fullest possession of those faculties that had raised him from an
unschooled farm-boy to a position of eminence in the business world,
went slowly blind. The shadows crept in upon him with a deadly,
merciless certainty that would have filled the stoutest heart with
gloom, and yet he maintained a smiling stoicism that deceived all but
his closest associates. To Doctor Suydam, however, the incontestable
progress of the malady was frightfully tragic. He alone knew the man's
abundant spirits, his lofty ambitions, and his active habits. He alone
knew of the overmastering love that had come so late and was
destined to go unvoiced, and he raved at the maddening limits of his
profession. In Austin's presence he strove to be cheerful and to
lighten the burden he knew was crushing the sick man; but at other
times he bent every energy toward a discovery of some means to check
the affliction, some hand more skilled than those he knew of. In time,
however, he recognized the futility of his efforts, and resigned
himself to the worst. He had a furious desire to acquaint Marmion
Moore with the truth, and to tell her, with all the brutal frankness
he could muster, of her part in this calamity. But Austin would not
hear of it.
"She doesn't dream of the truth," the invalid told him. "And I don't
want her to learn. She thinks I'm merely weak, and it grieves her
terribly to know that I haven't recovered. If she really knew--it
might ruin her life, for she is a girl who feels deeply. I want to
spare her that; it's the least I can do."
"But she'll find it out some time."
"I think not. She comes to see me every day--"
"Yes. I'm expecting her soon."
"And she doesn't know?"
Austin shook his head. "I never let her see there's anything the
matter with my sight. She drives up with her mother, and I wait for
her there in the bay-window. It's getting hard for me to distinguish
her now, but I recognize the hoofbeats--I can tell them every time."
"But--I don't understand."
"I pretend to be very weak," explained the elder man, with a guilty
flush. "I sit in the big chair yonder and my Jap boy waits on her. She
is very kind." Austin's voice grew husky. "I'm sorry to lose sight of
the Park out yonder, and the trees and the children--they're growing
indistinct. I--I like children. I've always wanted some for myself.
I've dreamed about--that." His thin, haggard face broke into a wistful
smile. "I guess that is all over with now."
"Why?" questioned Suydam, savagely. "Why don't you ask her to marry
you, Bob? She couldn't refuse--and God knows you need her."
"That's just it; she couldn't refuse. This is the sort of thing a
fellow must bear alone. She's too young, and beautiful, and fine to be
harnessed up to a worn-out old--cripple."
"Cripple!" The other choked. "Don't talk like that. Don't be so blamed
resigned. It tears my heart out. I--I--why, I believe I feel this more
than you do."
Austin turned his face to the speaker with a look of such tragic
suffering that the younger man fell silent.
"I'm glad I can hide my feelings," Austin told him, slowly, "for that
is what I have to do every instant she is with me. I don't wish to
inflict unnecessary pain upon my friends, but don't you suppose I know
what this means? It means the destruction of all my fine hopes, the
death of all I hold dear in the world. I love my work, for I am--or I
was--a success; this means I must give it up. I'm strong in body and
brain; this robs me of my usefulness. All my life I have prayed that
I might some time love a woman; that time has come, but this means
I must give her up and be lonely all my days. I must grope my way
through the dark with never a ray of light to guide me. Do you know
how awful the darkness is?" He clasped his hands tightly. "I must go
hungering through the night, with a voiceless love to torture me. Just
at the crowning point of my life I've been snuffed out. I must fall
behind and see my friends desert me."
"Bob!" cried the other, in shocked denial.
"Oh, you know it will come to that. People don't like to feel pity
forever tugging at them. I've been a lonely fellow and my friends are
numbered. For a time they will come to see me, and try to cheer me up;
they will even try to include me in their pleasures; then when it is
no longer a new story and their commiseration has worn itself out they
will gradually fall away. It always happens so. I'll be 'poor Bob
Austin,' and I'll go feeling my way through life an object of pity, a
stumbling, incomplete thing that has no place to fill, no object to
work for, no one to care. God! I'm not the sort to go blind! Where's
the justice of it? I've lived clean. Why did this happen to me? Why?
Why? I know what the world is; I've been a part of it. I've seen the
spring and the autumn colors and I've watched the sunsets. I've looked
into men's faces and read their souls, and when you've done that you
can't live in darkness. I can't and--I won't!"
"What do you mean?"
"I'm going away."
"When I can no longer see Marmion Moore and before my affliction
becomes known to her. Where--you can guess."
"Oh, that's cowardly, Bob! You're not that sort. You mustn't! It's
unbelievable," his friend cried, in a panic.
Austin smiled bitterly. "We have discussed that too often, and--I'm
not sure that what I intend doing is cowardly. I can't go now, for the
thing is too fresh in her memory, she might learn the truth and hold
herself to blame; but when she has lost the first shock of it I shall
walk out quietly and she won't even suspect. Other interests will come
into her life; I'll be only a memory. Then--" After a pause he went
on, "I couldn't bear to see her drop away with the rest."
"Don't give up yet," urged the physician. "She is leaving for the
summer, and while she is gone we'll try that Berlin chap. He'll be
here in August."
"And he will fail, as the others did. He will lecture some clinic
about me, that's all. Marmion will hear that my eyes have given out
from overwork, or something like that. Then I'll go abroad, and--I
won't come back." Austin, divining the rebellion in his friend's
heart, said, quickly: "You're the only one who could enlighten her,
Doc, but you won't do it. You owe me too much."
"I--I suppose I do," acknowledged Suydam, slowly. "I owe you more than
I can ever repay--"
"Wait--" The sick man raised his hand, while a sudden light blazed up
in his face. "She's coming!"
To the doctor's trained ear the noises of the street rose in a
confused murmur, but Austin spoke in an awed, breathless tone, almost
as if he were clairvoyant.
"I can hear the horses. She's coming to--see me."
"I'll go," exclaimed the visitor, quickly, but the other shook his
"I'd rather have you stay."
Austin was poised in an attitude of the intensest alertness, his
angular, awkward body was drawn to its full height, his lean face was
lighted by some hidden fire that lent it almost beauty.
"She's getting out of the carriage," he cried, in a nervous voice;
then he felt his way to his accustomed arm-chair. Suydam was about to
go to the bay-window when he paused, regarding his friend curiously.
"What are you doing?"
The blind man had begun to beat time with his hand, counting under his
breath: "One! Two! Three!--"
"She'll knock when I reach twenty-five. 'Sh! 'sh!" He continued his
pantomime, and Suydam realized that from repeated practice Austin had
gauged to a nicety the seconds Marmion Moore required to mount the
stairs. This was his means of holding himself in check. True to
prediction, at "Twenty-five" a gentle knock sounded, and Suydam opened
"Come in, Marmion."
The girl paused for the briefest instant on the threshold, and the
doctor noted her fleeting disappointment at seeing him; then she took
"This _is_ a surprise," she exclaimed. "I haven't seen you for ever so
Her anxious glance swept past him to the big, awkward figure against
the window's light. Austin was rising with apparent difficulty, and
she glided to him.
"Please! Don't rise! How many times have I told you not to exert
Suydam noted the gentle, proprietary tone of her voice, and it amazed
"I--am very glad that you came to see me." The afflicted man's voice
was jerky and unmusical. "How are you to-day, Miss?"
"He shouldn't rise, should he?" Miss Moore appealed to the physician.
"He is very weak and shouldn't exert himself."
The doctor wished that his friend might see the girl's face as he saw
it; he suddenly began to doubt his own judgment of women.
"Oh, I'm doing finely," Austin announced. "Won't you be seated?" He
waved a comprehensive gesture, and Suydam, marveling at the manner
in which the fellow concealed his infirmity, brought a chair for the
"I came alone to-day. Mother is shopping," Miss Moore was saying.
"See! I brought these flowers to cheer up your room." She held up a
great bunch of sweet peas. "I love the pink ones, don't you?"
Austin addressed the doctor. "Miss Moore has been very kind to me; I'm
afraid she feels it her duty--"
"No! No!" cried the girl.
"She rarely misses a day, and she always brings flowers. I'm very fond
of bright colors."
Suydam cursed at the stiff formality in the man's tone. How could any
woman see past that glacial front and glimpse the big, aching
heart beyond? Austin was harsh and repellent when the least bit
self-conscious, and now he was striving deliberately to heighten the
The physician wondered why Marmion Moore had gone even thus far in
showing her gratitude, for she was not the self-sacrificing kind. As
for a love match between two such opposite types, Suydam could not
conceive of it. Even if the girl understood the sweet, simple nature
of this man, even if she felt her own affections answer to his, Suydam
believed he knew the women of her set too well to imagine that she
could bring herself to marry a blind man, particularly one of no
"We leave for the mountains to-morrow," Marmion said, "so I came to
say good-by, for a time."
"I--shall miss your visits," Austin could not disguise his genuine
regret, "but when you return I shall be thoroughly recovered. Perhaps
we can ride again."
"Never!" declared Miss Moore. "I shall never ride again. Think of the
suffering I've caused you. I--I--am dreadfully sorry."
To Suydam's amazement, he saw the speaker's eyes fill with tears. A
doubt concerning the correctness of his surmises came over him and he
rose quickly. After all, he reflected, she might see and love the real
Bob as he did, and if so she might wish to be alone with him in this
last hour. But Austin laughed at his friend's muttered excuse.
"You know there's nobody waiting for you. That's only a pretense to
find livelier company. You promised to dine with me." To Miss Moore he
explained: "He isn't really busy; why, he has been complaining for an
hour that the heat has driven all his patients to the country, and
that he is dying of idleness."
The girl's expression altered curiously. She shrank as if wounded; she
scanned the speaker's face with startled eyes before turning with a
strained smile to say:
"So, Doctor, we caught you that time. That comes from being a
high-priced society physician. Why don't you practise among the
masses? I believe the poor are always in need of help."
"I really have an engagement," Suydam muttered.
"Then break it for Mr. Austin's sake. He is lonely and--I must be
going in a moment."
The three talked for a time in the manner all people adopt for a
sick-room, then the girl rose and said, with her palm in Austin's
"I owe you so much that I can never hope to repay you, but you--you
will come to see me frequently this season. Promise! You won't hide
yourself, will you?"
The blind man smiled his thanks and spoke his farewell with
meaningless politeness; then, as the physician prepared to see her to
her carriage, Miss Moore said:
"No! Please stay and gossip with our invalid. It's only a step."
She walked quickly to the door, flashed them a smile, and was gone.
Suydam heard his patient counting as before.
"One! Two! Three--!"
At "Twenty-five" the elder man groped his way to the open bay-window
and bowed at the carriage below. There came the sound of hoofs and
rolling wheels, and the doctor, who had taken stand beside his friend,
saw Marmion Moore turn in her seat and wave a last adieu. Austin
continued to nod and smile in her direction, even after the carriage
was lost to view; then he felt his way back to the arm-chair and sank
limply into it.
"Gone! I--I'll never be able to see her again."
Suydam's throat tightened miserably. "Could you see her at all?"
"Only her outlines; but when she comes back in the fall I'll be as
blind as a bat." He raised an unsteady hand to his head and closed his
eyes. "I can stand anything except that! To lose sight of her dear
face--" The force of his emotion wrenched a groan from him.
"I don't know what to make of her," said the other. "Why didn't you
let me go, Bob? It was her last good-by; she wanted to be alone with
you. She might have--"
"That's it!" exclaimed Austin. "I was afraid of myself; afraid I'd
speak if I had the chance." His voice was husky as he went on. "It's
hard--hard, for sometimes I think she loves me, she's so sweet and so
tender. At such times I'm a god. But I know it can't be; that it is
only pity and gratitude that prompts her. Heaven knows I'm uncouth
enough at best, but now I have to exaggerate my rudeness. I play
a part--the part of a lumbering, stupid lout, while my heart is
breaking." He bowed his head in his hands, closing his dry, feverish
eyes once more. "It's cruelly hard. I can't keep it up."
The other man laid a hand on his shoulder, saying: "I don't know
whether you're doing right or not. I half suspect you are doing
Marmion a bitter wrong."
"Oh, but she can't--she _can't_ love me!" Austin rose as if
frightened. "She might yield to her impulse and--well, marry me, for
she has a heart of gold, but it wouldn't last. She would learn some
time that it wasn't real love that prompted the sacrifice. Then I
The specialist from Berlin came, but he refused to operate, declaring
bluntly that there was no use, and all during the long, hot summer
days Robert Austin sat beside his open window watching the light
die out of the world, waiting, waiting, for the time to make his
Suydam read Marmion's cheery letters aloud, wondering the while at the
wistful note they sounded now and then. He answered them in his own
handwriting, which she had never seen.
One day came the announcement that she was returning the first week in
October. Already September was partly gone, so Austin decided to sail
in a week. At his dictation Suydam wrote to her, saying that the
strain of overwork had rendered a long vacation necessary. The doctor
writhed internally as he penned the careful sentences, wondering if
the hurt of the deliberately chosen words would prevent her sensing
the truth back of them. As days passed and no answer came he judged it
The apartment was stripped and bare, the trunks were packed on the
afternoon before Austin's departure. All through the dreary mockery of
the process the blind man had withstood his friend's appeal, his stern
face set, his heavy heart full of a despairing stubbornness. Now,
being alone at last, he groped his way about the premises to fix them
in his memory; then he sank into his chair beside the window.
He heard a knock at the door and summoned the stranger to enter, then
he rose with a gasp of dismay. Marmion Moore was greeting him with
sweet, yet hesitating effusiveness.
"I--I thought you were not coming back until next week," he stammered.
"We changed our plans." She searched his face as best she could in the
shaded light, a strange, anxious expression upon her own. "Your letter
"The doctor's orders," he said, carelessly. "They say I have broken
"I know! I know what caused it!" she panted. "You never recovered from
that accident. You did not tell me the truth. I've always felt that
you were hiding something from me. Why? Oh, why?"
"Nonsense!" He undertook to laugh, but failed in a ghastly manner.
"I've been working too hard. Now I'm paying the penalty."
"How long will you be gone?" she queried.
"Oh, I haven't decided. A long time, however." His tone bewildered
her. "It is the first vacation I ever had; I want to make the most of
"You--you were going away without saying good-by to--your old
friends?" Her lips were white, and her brave attempt to smile would
have told him the truth had he seen it, but he only had her tone to go
by, so he answered, indifferently:
"All my arrangements were made; I couldn't wait."
"You are offended with me," Miss Moore said, after a pause. "How have
I hurt you? What is it; please? I--I have been too forward, perhaps?"
Austin dared not trust himself to answer, and when he made no sign the
girl went on, painfully:
"I'm sorry. I didn't want to seem bold. I owe you so much; we were
such good friends--" In spite of her efforts her voice showed her
The man felt his lonely heart swell with the wild impulse to tell her
all, to voice his love in one breathless torrent of words that would
undeceive her. The strain of repression lent him added brusqueness
when he strove to explain, and his coldness left her sorely hurt.
His indifference filled her with a sense of betrayal; it chilled the
impulsive yearning in her breast. She had battled long with herself
before coming and now she repented of her rashness, for it was plain
he did not need her. This certainty left her sick and listless,
therefore she bade him adieu a few moments later, and with aching
throat went blindly out and down the stairs.
The instant she was gone Austin leaped to his feet; the agony of death
was upon his features. Breathlessly he began to count:
"One! Two! Three--!"
He felt himself smothering, and with one sweep of his hand ripped the
collar from his throat.
"Five! Six! Seven--!"
He was battling like a drowning man, for, in truth, the very breath of
his life was leaving him. A drumming came into his ears. He felt that
he must call out to her before it was too late. He was counting aloud
now, his voice like the moan of a man on the rack.
A frenzy to voice his sufferings swept over him, but he held himself.
Only a moment more and she would be gone; her life would be spared
this dark shadow, and she would never know, but he--he would indeed be
face to face with darkness.
Toward the last he was reeling, but he continued to tell off the
seconds with the monotonous regularity of a timepiece, his every power
centered on that process. The idea came to him that he was counting
his own flickering pulse-throbs for the last time. With a tremendous
effort of will he smoothed his face and felt his way to the open
window, for by now she must be entering the landau. A moment later
and she would turn to waft him her last adieu. Her last! God! How the
seconds lagged! That infernal thumping in his ears had drowned the
noises from the street below. He felt that for all time the torture of
this moment would live with him.
Then he smiled! He smiled blindly out into the glaring sunlight, and
bowed. And bowed and smiled again, clinging to the window-casing to
support himself. By now she must have reached the corner. He freed one
hand and waved it gaily, then with outflung arms he stumbled back into
the room, the hot tears coursing down his cheeks.
Marmion Moore halted upon the stairs and felt mechanically for her
gold chatelaine. She recalled dropping it upon the center-table as she
went forward with hands outstretched to Austin; so she turned back,
then hesitated. But he was leaving to-morrow; surely he would
not misinterpret the meaning of her reappearance. Summoning her
self-control, she remounted the stairs quickly.
The door was half ajar as she had left it in her confusion. Mustering
a careless smile, she was about to knock, then paused. Austin was
facing her in the middle of the room, beating time. He was counting
aloud--but was that his voice? In the brief instant she had been gone
he had changed astoundingly. Moreover, notwithstanding the fact that
she stood plainly revealed, he made no sign of recognition, but merely
counted on and on, with the voice of a dying man. She divined that
something was sadly amiss; she wondered for an instant if the man had
lost his senses.
She stood transfixed, half-minded to flee, yet held by some pitying
desire to help; then she saw him reach forward and grope his way
uncertainly to the window. In his progress he stumbled against a
chair; he had to feel for the casing. Then she knew.
Marmion Moore found herself inside the room, staring with wide,
affrighted eyes at the man whose life she had spoiled. She pressed her
hands to her bosom to still its heavings. She saw Austin nodding down
at the street below; she saw his ghastly attempt to smile; she heard
the breath sighing from his lungs and heard him muttering her name.
Then he turned and lurched past her, groping, groping for his chair.
She cried out, sharply, in a stricken voice:
The man froze in his tracks; he swung his head slowly from side to
side, as if listening.
"What!" The word came like the crack of a gun. Then, after a moment,
"Marmion!" He spoke her name as if to test his own hearing. It was the
first time she had ever heard him use it.
She slipped forward until within an arm's-length of him, then
stretched forth a wildly shaking hand and passed it before his
unwinking eyes, as if she still disbelieved. Then he heard her moan.
"Marmion!" he cried again. "My God! little girl, I--thought I heard
"Then this, _this_ is the reason," she said. "Oh-h-h!"
"What are you doing here? Why did you come back?" he demanded,
"I forgot my--No! God sent me back!"
There was a pause, during which the man strove to master himself; then
he asked, in the same harsh accents:
"How long have you been here?"
"Long enough to see--and to understand."
"Well, you know the truth at last. I--have gone--blind." The last word
caused his lips to twitch. He knew from the sound that she was weeping
bitterly. "Please don't. I've used my eyes too much, that is all. It
"No! No! No!" she said, brokenly. "Don't you think I understand? Don't
you think I see it all now? But why--why didn't you tell me? Why?"
When he did not answer she repeated: "God sent me back. I--I was not
meant to be so unhappy."
Austin felt himself shaken as if by a panic. He cried, hurriedly:
"You see, we've been such good friends. I knew it would distress you.
I--wanted to spare you that! You were a good comrade to me; we were
like chums. Yes, we were chums. No friend could have been dearer to me
than you, Miss Moore. I never had a sister, you know. I--I thought of
you that way, and I--" He was struggling desperately to save the girl,
but his incoherent words died on his lips when he felt her come close
and lay her cheek against his arm.
"You mustn't try to deceive me any more," she said, gently. "I was
here. I know the truth, and--I want to be happy."
Even then he stood dazed and disbelieving until she continued:
"I know that you love me, and that I love you."
"It is pity!" he exclaimed, hoarsely. "You don't mean it."
But she drew herself closer to him and turned her tear-stained face up
to his, saying, wistfully, "If your dear eyes could have seen, they
would have told you long ago."
"Oh, my love!" He was too weak to resist longer. His arms were
trembling as they enfolded her, but in his heart was a gladness that
comes to but few men.
"And you won't go away without me, will you?" she questioned,
"No, no!" he breathed. "Oh, Marmion, I have lost a little, but I have
gained much! God has been good to me."
THE REAL AND THE MAKE-BELIEVE
On his way down-town Phillips stopped at a Subway news-stand and
bought all the morning papers. He acknowledged that he was vastly
excited. As he turned in at the stage door he thrilled at sight of
the big electric sign over the theater, pallid now in the morning
sunshine, but symbolizing in frosted letters the thing for which he
had toiled and fought, had hoped and despaired these many years. There
it hung, a dream come true, and it read, "A Woman's Thrall, By Henry
The stage-door man greeted him with a toothless smile and handed him a
bundle of telegrams, mumbling: "I knew it would go over, Mr. Phillips.
The notices are swell, ain't they?"
"They seem to be."
"I ain't seen their equal since 'The Music Master' opened. We'll run a
This differed from the feverish, half-hysterical praise of the
evening before. Phillips had made allowances then for the spell of a
first-night enthusiasm and had prepared himself for a rude awakening
this morning--he had seen too many plays fail, to put much faith
in the fulsomeness of first-nighters--but the words of the doorman
carried conviction. He had felt confident up to the last moment, to be
sure, for he knew he had put his life's best work into this drama, and
he believed he had written with a master's cunning; nevertheless, when
his message had gone forth a sudden panic had seized him. He had begun
to fear that his judgment was distorted by his nearness to the play,
or that his absorption in it had blinded him to its defects. It was
evident now, however, that these fears had been ill-founded, for no
play could receive such laudatory reviews as these and fail to set
Certain printed sentences kept dancing through his memory: "Unknown
dramatist of tremendous power," "A love story so pitiless, so true,
that it electrifies," "The deep cry of a suffering heart," "Norma
Berwynd enters the galaxy of stars."
That last sentence was the most significant, the most wonderful of
all. Norma Berwynd a star! Phillips could scarcely credit it; he
wondered if she had the faintest notion of how or why her triumph had
The property man met him, and he too was smiling.
"I just came from the office," he began. "Say! they're raving. It's
the biggest hit in ten years."
"Oh, come now! It's too early for the afternoon papers--"
"The papers be blowed! It's the public that makes a play; the whole
town knows about this one already. It's in and over, I tell you;
we'll sell out tonight. Believe me, this is a knock-out--a regular
bull's-eye. It won't take no government bonds to bridge us over the
next two weeks."
"Did you get the new props?"
"Sure! The electrician is working on the drop light for the first act;
we'll have a better glass crash tonight, and I've got a brand-new
dagger. That other knife was all right, but Mr. Francis forgot how to
"Nevertheless, it's dangerous. We came near having a real tragedy last
evening. Don't let's take any more chances."
"It wasn't my fault, on the level," the property man insisted.
"Francis always 'goes up' at an opening."
"Thank Heaven the papers didn't notice it."
"Huh! We could _afford_ to kill an actor for notices like them. It
would make great advertising and please the critics. Say! I knew this
show was a hit."
Under the dim-lit vault of the stage Phillips found the third-act
scenery set for the rehearsal he had called, then, having given his
instructions to the wardrobe woman, he drew a chair up before a bunch
light and prepared to read for a second time the morning reviews.
He had attempted to read them at breakfast, but his wife--The
playwright sighed heavily at the memory of that scene. Leontine had
been very unjust, as usual. Her temper had run away with her again and
had forced him to leave the house with his splendid triumph spoiled,
his first taste of victory like ashes in his mouth. He was, in a way,
accustomed to these endless, senseless rows, but their increasing
frequency was becoming more and more trying, and he was beginning to
doubt his ability to stand them much longer. It seemed particularly
nasty of Leontine to seize upon this occasion to vent her open dislike
of him--their relations were already sufficiently strained. Marriage,
all at once, assumed a very lopsided aspect to the playwright; he had
given so much and received so little.
With an effort he dismissed the subject from his mind and set himself
to the more pleasant task of looking at his play through the eyes of
They had been very fair, he decided at last. Their only criticism
was one which he had known to be inevitable, therefore he felt no
"Norma Berwynd was superb," he read; "she combined with rare beauty
a personality at once bewitching and natural. She gave life to her
lines; she was deep, intense, true; she rose to her emotional heights
in a burst of power which electrified the audience. We cannot but
wonder why such an artist has remained so long undiscovered."
The dramatist smiled; surely that was sufficient praise to compensate
him for the miserable experience he had just undergone. He read
"Alas, that the same kind things cannot be said of Irving Francis,
whose name is blazoned forth in letters of fire above the theater. He
has established himself as one of America's brightest stars; but the
role of John Danton does not enhance his reputation. In his lighter
scenes he was delightful, but his emotional moments did not ring true.
In the white-hot climax of the third act, for instance, which is the
big scene of the play, he was stiff, unnatural, unconvincing. Either
he saw Miss Berwynd taking the honors of stardom away from him and
generously submerged his own talent in order to enhance her triumph,
or it is but another proof of the statement that husband and wife do
not make convincing lovers in the realm of the make-believe. It was
surely due to no lack of opportunity on his part--"
So the writer thought Irving Francis had voluntarily allowed his wife
to rival him. Phillips smiled at this. Some actors might be capable
of such generosity, but hardly Irving Francis. He recalled the man's
insistent demands during rehearsals that the 'script be changed to
build up his own part and undermine that of his wife; the many heated
arguments which had even threatened to prevent the final performance
of the piece. Irving's egotism had blinded him to the true result
of these quarrels, for although he had been given more lines, more
scenes, Phillips had seen to it that Norma was the one to really
profit by the changes. Author and star had been upon the verge
of rupture more than once during that heartbreaking period of
preparation, but Phillips was supremely glad now that he had held
himself in control. Leontine's constant nagging had borne fruit, after
all, in that it had at least taught him to bite down on his words, and
to smile at provocation.
Yes! Norma Berwynd was a star in spite of herself, in spite of her
husband. She was no longer merely the wife of Irving Francis, the
popular idol. Phillips was glad that she did not know how long it had
taken him to effect her independence, nor the price he had paid for
it, since, under the circumstances, the truth could help neither of
He was aroused from his abstraction by the rustle of a woman's
garments, and leaped to his feet with a glad light in his eyes, only
to find Leontine, his wife, confronting him.
"Oh!" he said; then with an effort, "What is the matter?"
"I didn't know you were coming down-town."
"Whom were you expecting?" Leontine mocked, with that slight accent
which betrayed her Gallic origin.
She regarded him with fixed hostility. "I came down to see your
rehearsal. You don't object, I hope?"
"Why should I object?" Phillips turned away with a shrug. "I'm
surprised, that's all--after what you said this morning. Isn't your
interest in the play a trifle--tardy?"
"No! I've been greatly interested in it all the time. I read it
several times in manuscript."
"Indeed! I didn't know that. It won't be much of a rehearsal this
morning; I'm merely going to run over the third act with Mr. and Mrs.
"You can rehearse her forty years and she'll never play the part."
"The critics don't agree with you; they rave over her. If Francis
Mrs. Phillips uttered an exclamation of anger. "Oh, of course, _she_
is perfect! You wouldn't give me the part, would you? No. You gave it
to her. But it's mine by rights; I have the personality."
"I wrote it for her," said the husband, after a pause. "I can't see
you in it."
"Naturally," she sneered. "Well, _I_ can, and it's not too late to
make the change. I'll replace her. My name will help the piece."
"Leontine!" he exclaimed, in amazement. "What are you talking about?
The play is a tremendous success as it is, and Miss Berwynd is a big
hit. I'd be crazy to make a change."
"You won't give me the part?"
"Certainly not. You shouldn't ask it."
"Doesn't Leontine Murat mean more to the public than Norma Berwynd?"
"Until last night, yes. To-day--well, no. She has created this role.
Besides--you--couldn't play the part."
"And why not, if you please?"
"I don't want to hurt your feelings, Leontine."
"Go on!" she commanded, in a voice roughened by passion.
"In the first place you're not--young enough." The woman quivered. "In
the second place, you've grown heavy. Then, too, your accent--"
She broke out at him furiously. "So! I'm old and fat and foreign. I've
lost my beauty. You think so, eh? Well, other men don't. I'll show you
what men think of me--"
"This is no time for threats," he interrupted, coldly.
"Bah! I don't threaten." Seizing him by the arm, she swung him about,
for she was a large woman and still in the fullest vigor of her
womanhood. "Listen! You can't fool me. I know why you wrote this play.
I know why you took that girl and made a star of her. I've known the
truth all along."
"You have no cause to--"
"Don't lie!" she stormed at him. "I can read you like a book. But I
won't stand for it." She flung his arm violently from her and turned
"I think you'd better go home," he told her. "You'll have the stage
hands talking in a minute."
She laughed disagreeably, ignoring his words. "I watched you write
this play! I have eyes, even if Irving Francis is blind. It's time he
knew what is going on."
"There is nothing going on," Phillips cried, heatedly; but his wife
merely shrugged her splendid shoulders and, opening her gold vanity
case, gave her face a deft going over with a tiny powder puff. After
a time the man continued: "I could understand your attitude if
you--cared for me, but some years ago you took pains to undeceive me
on that point."
Leontine's lip curled, and she made no answer.
"This play is a fine piece of property; it will bring us a great deal
of money; it is the thing for which I have worked years."
"I am going to tell Francis the truth about you and his wife!" she
"But there's nothing to tell," the man insisted, with an effort to
restrain himself. "Besides, you must know the result if you start a
thing like that. He'll walk out and take his wife with him. That would
"Give me her part."
"I won't be coerced," he flared up, angrily. "You are willing to
ruin me, out of pique, I suppose, but I won't permit it. This is the
biggest thing I ever did, or ever will do, perhaps; it means honor and
recognition, and--you're selfish enough to spoil it all. I've never
spoken to Norma Berwynd in any way to which her husband or you could
object. Therefore I resent your attitude."
"My attitude! I'm your wife."
He took a turn across the stage, followed by her eyes. Pausing before
her at length, he said, quietly: "I've asked you to go home and now
I insist upon it. If you are here when I return I shall dismiss the
rehearsal. I refuse to allow our domestic relations to interfere with
my business." He strode out to the front of the house and then paced
the dark foyer, striving to master his emotions. A moment later he
saw his wife leave the stage and assumed that she had obeyed his
admonitions and gone home.
The property-man appeared with an armful of draperies and mechanical
appliances, interrupting his whistling long enough to call out.
"Here's the new hangings, Mr. Phillips, and the Oriental rugs. I've
got the dagger, too." He held a gleaming object on high. "Believe me,
it's some Davy Crockett. There's a newspaper guy out back and he wants
your ideas on the American drama. I told him they were great. Will you
"Not now. Tell him to come back later."
"Say! That John Danton is some character. Why don't you let him have
"Because--well, because it doesn't happen in real life, and I've tried
to make this play real, more than anything else."
When Norma Berwynd and her husband arrived Phillips had completely
regained his composure, and he greeted them cordially. The woman
seemed awed, half-frightened, by her sudden rise to fame. She seemed
to be walking in a dream, and a great wonder dwelt in her eyes. As for
Francis, he returned the author's greeting curtly, making it plain
that he was in no agreeable temper.
"I congratulate you, Phillips," he said. "You and Norma have become
The open resentment in his tone angered the playwright and caused him
to wonder if their long-deferred clash was destined to occur this
morning. He knew himself to be overwrought, and he imagined Francis to
be in no better frame of mind; nevertheless, he answered, pacifically:
"If that is so we owe it to your art."
"Not at all. I see now what I failed to detect in reading and
rehearsing the piece, and what you neglected to tell me, namely, that
this is a woman's play. There's nothing in it for me. There's nothing
in my part."
"Oh, come now! The part is tremendous; you merely haven't got the most
out of it as yet."
Francis drew himself up and eyed the speaker coldly. "You're quoting
the newspapers. Pray be more original. You know, of course, how I
stand with these penny-a-liners; they never have liked me, but as for
the part--" He shrugged. "I can't get any more out of it than there is
"Doubtless that was my fault at rehearsals. I've called this one so we
can fix up the weak spot in the third act."
"Well! We're on time. Where are the others?" Francis cast an inquiring
"I'll only rehearse you and Mrs. Francis."
"Indeed!" The former speaker opened his mouth for a cutting rejoinder,
but changed his mind and stalked away into the shadowy depths of the
"Please make allowances for him," Norma begged, approaching Phillips
in order that her words might not be overheard. "I've never seen him
so broken up over anything. He is always unstrung after an opening,
but he is--terrible, this morning."
There was trouble, timidity, and another indefinable expression in the
woman's eyes as they followed the vanishing figure of her husband;
faint lines appeared at the corners of her mouth, lines which had
no place in the face of a happily married woman. She was trembling,
moreover, as if she had but recently played some big, emotional role,
and Phillips felt the old aching pity for her tugging at his heart. He
wondered if those stories about Francis could be true.
"It has been a great strain on all of us," he told her. "But you? How
do you feel after all this?" He indicated the pile of morning papers,
and at sight of them her eyes suddenly filled with that same wonder
and gladness he had noticed when she first arrived.
"Oh-h! I--I'm breathless. Something clutches me--here." She laid
her hand upon her bosom. "It's so new I can't express it yet,
except--well, all of my dreams came true in a night. Some fairy waved
her wand and, lo! poor ugly little me--" She laughed, although it was
more like a sob. "I had no idea my part was so immense. Had you?"
"I had. I wrote it that way. My dreams, also, came true."
"But why?" A faint flush stole into her cheeks. "There are so many
women who could have played the part better than I. You had courage to
risk your piece in my hands, Mr. Phillips."
"Perhaps I knew you better than you knew yourself." She searched his
face with startled curiosity. "Or better at least than the world knew
you. Tell me, there is something wrong? I'm afraid he--resents your--"
"Oh no, no!" she denied, hastily, letting her eyes fall, but not
before he had seen them fill again with that same expression of pain
and bewilderment. "He's--not himself, that's all. I--You--won't
irritate him? Please! He has such a temper."
Francis came out of the shadows scowling. "Well, let's get at it,"
Phillips agreed. "If you don't mind we'll start with your entrance. I
wish you would try to express more depth of feeling, more tenderness,
if you please, Mr. Francis. Remember, John Danton has fought this love
of his for many years, undertaking to remain loyal to his wife. He
doesn't dream that Diane returns his love, for he has never spoken,
never even hinted of his feelings until this instant. Now, however,
they are forced into expression. He begins reluctantly, frightened at
the thing which makes him speak, then when she responds the dam breaks
and his love over-rides his will power, his loyalty, his lifelong
principles; it sweeps him onward and it takes her with him. The truth
appals them both. They recognize its certain consequences and yet they
respond freely, fiercely. You can't overplay the scene, Mr. Francis."
"Certainly I can overplay it," the star declared. "That's the danger.
My effects should come from repression."
"I must differ with you. Repressive methods are out of place here. You
see, John Danton loses control of himself--"
"Nonsense!" Francis declared, angrily.
"The effectiveness of the scene depends altogether upon its--well, its
savagery. It must sweep the audience off its feet in order that the
climax shall appear logical."
"Nonsense again! I'm not an old-school actor, and I can't chew
scenery. I've gained my reputation by repressive acting, by
"This is not acting; this is real life."
Francis's voice rose a tone in pitch, and his eyes flashed at this
stubborn resistance to his own set ideas.
"Great heavens, Phillips! Don't try to tell me my own business.
People don't behave that way in real life; they don't explode under
passion--not even jealousy or revenge; they are reserved. Reserve!
That's the real thing; the other is all make-believe."
Seeing that it was useless to argue with the man, Phillips said
nothing more, so Francis and his wife assumed their positions and
began their lines.
It was a long scene and one demanding great force to sustain. It was
this, in fact, which had led to the choice of Irving Francis for the
principal role, for he was a man of tremendous physical power. He had
great ability, moreover, and yet never, even at rehearsals, had he
been able to invest this particular scene with conviction. Phillips
had rehearsed him in it time and again, but he seemed strangely
incapable of rising to the necessary heights. He was hollow,
artificial; his tricks and mannerisms showed through like familiar
trade marks. Strangely enough, the girl also had failed to get the
most out of the scene, and this morning, both star and leading woman
seemed particularly cold and unresponsive. They lacked the spark, the
uplifting intensity, which was essential, therefore, in desperation,
Phillips finally tried the expedient of altering their "business," of
changing positions, postures, and crosses; but they went through the
scene for a second time as mechanically as before.
Knowing every line as he did, feeling every heart throb, living and
suffering as John Danton was supposed to be living and suffering,
Phillips was nearly distracted. To him this was a wanton butchery of
his finest work. He interrupted, at last, in a heart-sick, hopeless
tone which sorely offended the already irritated Francis.
"I'm--afraid it's no use. You don't seem to get it."
"What is it I don't get?" roughly demanded the actor.
"You're not genuine--either of you. You don't seem to feel it."
"Humph! We're married!" said the star, so brutally that his wife
flushed painfully. "I tell you I get all it's possible to get out of
the scene. You wrote it and you see a lot of imaginary values; but
they're not there. I'm no superman--no god! I can't give you more than
the part contains."
"Look at it in this light," Phillips argued, after a pause. "Diane is
a married woman; she, too, is fighting a battle; she is restrained by
every convention, every sense of right, every instinct of wifehood and
womanhood. Now, then, you must sweep all that aside; your own fire
must set her ablaze despite--"
"I? _I_ must do all this?" mocked the other, furiously. "Why must _I_
do it all? Make Norma play up to me. She underplays me all the time;
she's not in my key. That's what's the matter--and I'm damned tired of
this everlasting criticism."
There was a strained silence, during which the two men faced each
other threateningly, and a panic seized the woman.
She managed to say, uncertainly: "Perhaps I--should play up to you,
"On the contrary, I don't think the fault is yours," Phillips said,
Again there was a dramatic silence, in which there was no element of
the make-believe. It was the clash of two strong men who disliked each
other intensely and whose masks were slipping. Neither they nor the
leading woman detected a figure stealing out from the gloom, as if
drawn by the magnetism of their anger.
"My fault, as usual," Francis sneered. "Understand this, Phillips, my
reputation means something to me, and I won't be forced out of a good
engagement by a--well, by you or by any other stage manager."
Phillips saw that same fearful look leap into the woman's eyes, and it
checked his heated retort. "I don't mean to find fault with you," he
declared, evenly. "I have the greatest respect for your ability as an
The star tossed his massive head in a peculiarly aggravating manner.
"Perhaps you think you can play the part better than I?"
"Irving! _Please_!" breathed his wife.
"Show me how it should be done, if you feel it so strongly."
"Thank you, I will," Phillips answered, impulsively. "I'm not an
actor, but I wrote this piece. What's more, I lived it before I wrote
it. It's my own story, and I think I know how it should be played."
Francis smiled mockingly. "Good!" said he; "I shall learn something."
"Do you mind?" The author turned to the real Diane, and she shook her
head, saying, uncertainly:
"It's--very good of you."
"Very well. If you will hold the manuscript, Mr. Francis, I'll try to
show what I feel the scene lacks. However, I don't think I'll need any
prompting. Now, then, we'll begin at John Danton's entrance."
With the mocking smile still upon his lips, Francis took the
manuscript and seated himself upon the prompter's table.
It was by no means remarkable that Henry Phillips should know
something about acting, for he had long been a stage manager, and in
emergencies he has assumed a good many divergent roles. He felt no
self-consciousness, therefore, as he exchanged places with Francis;
only an intense desire to prove his contentions. He nerved himself to
an unusual effort, but before he had played more than a few moments he
forgot the hostile husband and began to live the part of John Danton
as he had lived it in the writing, as he invariably lived it every
time he read the play or saw it acted.
Nor, as he had said, did he need prompting, for the lines were not the
written speeches of another which had been impressed upon his brain
by the mechanical process of repetition; they were his own thoughts
expressed in the simplest terms he knew, and they came forth unbidden,
hot, eager. Once he began to voice them he was seized by that same
mighty current which had drawn them from him in the first place and
left them strewn upon paper like driftwood after a flood. He had
acted every part of his play; he had spoken every line many times in
solitude; but this was the first time he had faced the real Diane. He
found himself mastered by a fierce exultation; he forgot that he
was acting or that the woman opposite him was playing a role of his