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Master Tales of Mystery, Volume 3 by Collected and Arranged by Francis J. Reynolds

Part 5 out of 8

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was already headed for Baldwin's ranch, with no likelihood of his
stopping till he reached home. At least that was what I hoped; but
there were a lot of ponies standing about, and, not knowing the
markings of the one I had ridden, I wasn't able to tell whether he
might not be among them.

Just as the fragments of the papers were passed over to Mr. Camp, he
was joined by Baldwin and the judge, and Camp held the torn pieces up
to them, saying--

"They've torn the proxies in two."

"Don't let that trouble you," said the judge. "Make an affidavit
before me, reciting the manner in which they were destroyed, and
I'll grant you a mandamus compelling the directors to accept them as
bona-fide proxies. Let me see how much injured they are."

Camp unfolded the papers, and I chuckled to myself at the look of
surprise that overspread his face as he took in the fact that they
were nothing but section reports. And, though I don't like cuss-words,
I have to acknowledge that I enjoyed the two or three that he promptly

When the first surprise of the trio was over, they called on the
sheriff, who arrived opportunely, to take us into 97 and search the
three of us--a proceeding that puzzled Fred and his lordship not a
little, for they weren't on to the fact that the letters hadn't been
recovered. I presume the latter will some day write a book dwelling on
the favorite theme of the foreigner, that there is no personal privacy
in America, and I don't know but his experiences justify the view. The
running remarks as the search was made seemed to open Fred's eyes, for
he looked at me with a puzzled air, but I winked and frowned at him,
and he put his face in order.

When the papers were not found on any of us, Camp and Baldwin both
nearly went demented. Baldwin suggested that I had never had the
papers, but Camp argued that Fred or Lord Ralles must have hidden them
in the car, in spite of the fact that the cowboys who had caught them
insisted that they couldn't have had time to hide the papers. Anyway,
they spent an hour in ferreting about in my car, and even searched my
two darkies, on the possibility that the true letters had been passed
on to them.

While they were engaged in this, I was trying to think out some way of
letting Mr. Cullen and Albert know where the letters were. The problem
was to suggest the saddle to them, without letting the cowboys
understand, and by good luck I thought I had the means. Albert had
complained to me the day we had ridden out to the Indian dwellings
at Flagstaff that his saddle fretted some galled spots which he had
chafed on his trip to Moran's Point. Hoping he would "catch on," I
shouted to him--

"How are your sore spots, Albert?"

He looked at me in a puzzled way, and called, "Aw, I don't understand

"Those sore spots you complained about to me the day before
yesterday," I explained.

He didn't seem any the less befogged as he replied, "I had forgotten
all about them."

"I've got a touch of the same trouble," I went on; "and, if I were
you, I'd look into the cause."

Albert only looked very much mystified, and I didn't dare say more,
for at this point the trio, with the sheriff, came out of my car. If I
hadn't known that the letters were safe, I could have read the story
in their faces, for more disgusted and angry-looking men I have rarely

They had a talk with the sheriff, and then Fred, Lord Ralles, and I
were marched off by the official, his lordship loudly demanding sight
of a warrant, and protesting against the illegality of his arrest,
varied at moments by threats to appeal to the British consul, minister
plenipo., her Majesty's Foreign Office, etc., all of which had about
as much influence on the sheriff and his cowboy assistants as a Moqui
Indian snake-dance would have in stopping a runaway engine. I confess
to feeling a certain grim satisfaction in the fact that if I was to be
shut off from seeing Madge, the Britisher was in the same box with me.

Ash Fork, though only six years old, had advanced far enough toward
civilization to have a small jail, and into that we were shoved. Night
was come by the time we were lodged there, and, being in pretty good
appetite, I struck the sheriff for some grub.

"I'll git yer somethin'," he said, good-naturedly; "but next time yer
shove people, Mr. Gordon, just quit shovin' yer friends. My shoulder
feels like--" perhaps it's just as well not to say what his shoulder
felt like. The Western vocabulary is expressive, but at times not
quite fit for publication.

The moment the sheriff was gone, Fred wanted the mystery of the
letters explained, and I told him all there was to tell, including as
good a description of the pony as I could give him. We tried to hit on
some plan to get word to those outside, but it wasn't to be done. At
least it was a point gained that some one of our party besides myself
knew where the letters were.

The sheriff returned presently with a loaf of canned bread and a tin
of beans. If I had been alone, I should have kicked at the food and
got permission for my darkies to send me up something from 97; but I
thought I'd see how Lord Ralles would like genuine Western fare, so I
said nothing. That, I have to state, is more--or rather less--than
the Britisher did, after he had sampled the stuff; and really I don't
blame him, much as I enjoyed his rage and disgust.

It didn't take long to finish our supper, and then Fred, who hadn't
slept much the night before, stretched out on the floor and went to
sleep. Lord Ralles and I sat on boxes--the only furniture the room
contained--about as far apart as we could get, he in the sulks, and
I whistling cheerfully. I should have liked to be with Madge, but
he wasn't; so there was some compensation, and I knew that time was
playing the cards in our favor: so long as they hadn't found the
letters we had only to sit still to win.

About an hour after supper, the sheriff came back and told me Camp and
Baldwin wanted to see me. I saw no reason to object, so in they came,
accompanied by the judge. Baldwin opened the ball by saying genially--

"Well, Mr. Gordon, you've played a pretty cute gamble, and I suppose
you think you stand to win the pot."

"I'm not complaining," I said.

"Still," snarled Camp, angrily, as if my contented manner fretted him,
"our time will come presently, and we can make it pretty uncomfortable
for you. Illegal proceedings put a man in jail in the long run."

"I hope you take your lesson to heart," I remarked cheerfully, which
made Camp scowl worse than ever.

"Now," said Baldwin, who kept cool, "we know you are not risking loss
of position and the State's prison for nothing, and we want to know
what there is in it for you?"

"I wouldn't stake my chance of State's prison against yours,
gentlemen. And, while I may lose my position, I'll be a long way from

"That doesn't tell us what Cullen gives you to take the risk."

"Mr. Cullen hasn't given, or even hinted that he'll give, anything."

"And Mr. Gordon hasn't asked, and, if I know him, wouldn't take a cent
for what he has done," said Fred, rising from the floor.

"You mean to say you are doing it for nothing?" exclaimed Camp,

"That's about the truth of it," I said; though I thought of Madge as I
said it, and felt guilty in suggesting that she was nothing.

"Then what is your motive?" cried Baldwin.

If there had been any use, I should have replied, "The right;" but I
knew that they would only think I was posing if I said it. Instead I
replied: "Mr. Cullen's party has the stock majority in their favor,
and would have won a fair fight if you had played fair. Since you
didn't, I'm doing my best to put things to right."

Camp cried, "All the more fool--" but Baldwin interrupted him by

"That only shows what a mean cuss Cullen is. He ought to give you ten
thousand, if he gives you a cent."

"Yes," cried Camp, "those letters are worth money, whether he's
offered it or not."

"Mr. Cullen never so much as hinted paying me," said I.

"Well, Mr. Gordon," said Baldwin, suavely, "we'll show you that we can
be more liberal. Though the letters rightfully belong to Mr. Camp, if
you'll deliver them to us we'll see that you don't lose your place,
and we'll give you five thousand dollars."

I glanced at Fred, whom I found looking at me anxiously, and asked

"Can't you do better than that?"

"We could with any one but you," said Fred.

I should have liked to shake hands over this compliment, but I only
nodded, and turning to Mr. Camp, said--

"You see how mean they are."

"You'll find we are not built that way," said Baldwin. "Five thousand
isn't a bad day's work, eh?"

"No," I said, laughing; "but you just told me I ought to get ten
thousand if I got a cent."

"It's worth ten to Mr. Cullen, but--"

I interrupted by saying, "If it's worth ten to him, it's worth a
hundred to me."

That was too much for Camp. First he said something best omitted,
and then went on, "I told you it was waste of time trying to win him

The three stood apart for a moment whispering, and then Judge Wilson
called the sheriff over, and they all went out together. The moment we
were alone, Frederic held out his hand, and said--

"Gordon, it's no use saying anything, but if we can ever do--"

I merely shook hands, but I wanted the worst way to say--

"Tell Madge what I've done, and the thing's square."



Within five minutes we had a big surprise, for the sheriff and Mr.
Baldwin came back, and the former announced that Fred and Lord Ralles
were free, having been released on bail. When we found that Baldwin
had gone on the bond, I knew that there was a scheme of some sort
in the move, and, taking Fred aside, I warned him against trying to
recover the proxies.

"They probably think that one or the other of you knows where the
letters are hidden," I whispered, "and they'll keep a watch on you; so
go slow."

He nodded, and followed the sheriff and Lord Ralles out.

The moment they were gone, Mr. Camp said, "I came back to give you a
last chance."

"That's very good of you," I said.

"I warn you," he muttered threateningly, "we are not men to be beaten.
There are fifty cowboys of Baldwin's in this town, who think you were
concerned in the holding up. By merely tipping them the wink, they'll
have you out of this, and after they've got you outside I wouldn't
give the toss of a nickel for your life. Now, then, will you hand over
those letters, or will you go to ---- inside of ten minutes?"

I lost my temper in turn. "I'd much prefer going to some place where
I was less sure of meeting you," I retorted; "and as for the cowboys,
you'll have to be as tricky with them as you want to be with me before
you'll get them to back you up in your dirty work."

At this point the sheriff called back to ask Camp if he was coming.

"All right," cried Camp, and went to the door. "This is the last
call," he snarled, pausing for a moment on the threshold.

"I hope so," said I, more calmly in manner than in feeling, I have to
acknowledge, for I didn't like the look of things. That they were in
earnest I felt pretty certain, for I understood now why they had let
my companions out of jail. They knew that angry cowboys were a trifle
undiscriminating, and didn't care to risk hanging more than was

A long time seemed to pass after they were gone, but in reality it
wasn't more than fifteen minutes before I heard some one steal up
and softly unlock the door. I confess the evident endeavor to do
it quietly gave me a scare, for it seemed to me it couldn't be an
above-board movement. Thinking this, I picked up the box on which I
had been sitting and prepared to make the best fight I could. It was a
good deal of relief, therefore, when the door opened just wide enough
for a man to put in his head, and I heard the sheriff's voice say,

"Hi, Gordon!"

I was at the door in an instant, and asked--

"What's up?"

"They're gettin' the fellers together, and sayin' that yer shot a
woman in the hold-up."

"It's an infernal lie," I said.

"Sounds that way to me," assented the sheriff; "but two-thirds of the
boys are drunk, and it's a long time since they've had any fun."

"Well," I said, as calmly as I could, "are you going to stand by me?"

"I would, Mr. Gordon," he replied, "if there was any good, but there
ain't time to get a posse, and what's one Winchester against a mob of
cowboys like them?"

"If you'll lend me your gun," I said, "I'll show just what it is
worth, without troubling you."

"I'll do better than that," offered the sheriff, "and that's what I'm
here for. Just sneak, while there's time."

"You mean--?" I exclaimed.

"That's it. I'm goin' away, and I'll leave the door unlocked. If yer
get clear let me know yer address, and later, if I want yer, I'll send
yer word." He took a grip on my fingers that numbed them as if they
had been caught in an air-brake, and disappeared.

I slipped out after the sheriff without loss of time. That there
wasn't much to spare was shown by a crowd with some torches down the
street, collected in front of a saloon. They were making a good deal
of noise, even for the West; evidently the flame was being fanned. Not
wasting time, I struck for the railroad, because I knew the geography
of that best, but still more because I wanted to get to the station.
It was a big risk to go there, but it was one I was willing to take
for the object I had in view, and, since I had to take it, it was
safest to get through with the job before the discovery was made that
I was no longer in jail.

It didn't take me three minutes to reach the station. The whole place
was black as a coal-dumper, except for the slices of light which shone
through the cracks of the curtained windows in the specials, the dim
light of the lamp in the station, and the glow of the row of saloons
two hundred feet away. I was afraid, however, that there might be a
spy lurking somewhere, for it was likely that Camp would hope to get
some clue of the letters by keeping a watch on the station and the
cars. Thinking boldness the safest course, I walked on to the platform
without hesitation, and went into the station. The "night man" was
sitting in his chair, nodding, but he waked up the moment I spoke.

"Don't speak my name," I said, warningly, as he struggled to his feet;
and then in the fewest possible words I told him what I wanted of
him--to find if the pony I had ridden (Camp's or Baldwin's) was in
town and, if so, to learn where it was, and to get the letters on the
quiet from under the saddle-flap. I chose this man, first because I
could trust him, and next, because I had only one of the Cullens as an
alternative, and if any of them went sneaking round, it would be sure
to attract attention. "The moment you have the letters, put them in
the station safe," I ended, "and then get word to me."

"And where'll you be, Mr. Gordon?" asked the man.

"Is there any place about here that's a safe hiding spot for a few
hours?" I asked. "I want to stay till I'm sure those letters are safe,
and after that I'll steal on board the first train that comes along."

"Then you'll want to be near here," said the man. "I'll tell you, I've
got just the place for you. The platform's boarded in all round, but I
noticed one plank that's loose at one end, right at this nigh corner,
and if you just pry it open enough to get in, and then pull the board
in place, they'll never find you."

"That will do," I said; "and when the letters are safe, come out on
the platform, walk up and down once, bang the door twice, and then
say, 'That way freight is late.' And if you get a chance, tell one of
the Cullens where I'm hidden."

I crossed the platform boldly, jumped down, and walked away. But after
going fifty feet I dropped down on my hands and knees and crawled
back. Inside of two minutes I was safely stowed away under the
platform, in about as neat a hiding-place as a man could ask. In fact,
if I had only had my wits enough about me to borrow a revolver of the
man, I could have made a pretty good defence, even if discovered.

Underneath the platform was loose gravel, and, as an additional
precaution, I scooped out, close to the side-boarding, a trough long
enough for me to lie in. Then I got into the hole, shovelled the sand
over my legs, and piled the rest up in a heap close to me, so that by
a few sweeps of my arm I could cover my whole body, leaving only my
mouth and nose exposed, and those below the level. That made me feel
pretty safe, for, even if the cowboys found the loose plank and
crawled in, it would take uncommon good eyesight, in the darkness, to
find me. I had hollowed out my living grave to fit, and if I could
have smoked, I should have been decidedly comfortable. Sleep I dared
not indulge in, and the sequel showed that I was right in not allowing
myself that luxury.

I hadn't much more than comfortably settled myself, and let thoughts
of a cigar and a nap flit through my mind, when a row up the street
showed that the jail-breaking had been discovered. Then followed
shouts and confusion for a few moments, while a search was being
organized. I heard some horsemen ride over the tracks, and also down
the street, followed by the hurried footsteps of half a dozen men.
Some banged at the doors of the specials, while others knocked at the
station door.

One of the Cullens' servants opened the door of 218, and I heard the
sheriff's voice telling him he'd got to search the car. The darky
protested, saying that the "gentmun was all away, and only de miss
inside." The row brought Miss Cullen to the door, and I heard her ask
what was the matter.

"Sorry to trouble yer, miss," said the sheriff, "but a prisoner has
broken jail, and we've got to look for him."

"Escaped!" cried Madge, joyfully. "How?"

"That's just what gits away with me," marvelled the sheriff. "My idee

"Don't waste time on theories," said Camp's voice, angrily. "Search
the car."

"Sorry to discommode a lady," apologized the sheriff, gallantly, "but
if we may just look around a little?"

"My father and brothers went out a few minutes ago," said Madge,
hesitatingly, "and I don't know if they would be willing."

Camp laughed angrily, and ordered, "Stand aside, there."

"Don't yer worry," said the sheriff. "If he's on the car, he can't
git away. We'll send a feller up for Mr. Cullen, while we search Mr.
Gordon's car and the station."

They set about it at once, and used up ten minutes in the task. Then I
heard Camp say--

"Come, we can't wait all night for permission to search this car. Go

"I hope you'll wait till my father comes," begged Madge.

"Now go slow, Mr. Camp," said the sheriff: "We mustn't discomfort the
lady if we can avoid it."

"I believe you're wasting time in order to help him escape," snapped

"Nothin' of the kind," denied the sheriff.

"If you won't do your duty, I'll take the law into my own hands, and
order the car searched," sputtered Camp, so angry as hardly to be able
to articulate.

"Look a here," growled the sheriff, "who are yer sayin' all this to
anyway? If yer talkin' to me, say so right off."

"All I mean," hastily said Camp, "is that it's your duty, in your
honorable position, to search this car."

"I don't need no instructing in my dooty as sheriff," retorted the
official. "But a bigger dooty is what is owin' to the feminine sex.
When a female is in question, a gentleman, Mr. Camp--yes, sir, a
gentleman--is in dooty bound to be perlite."

"Politeness be ---- ----!" swore Camp.

"Git as angry as yer ---- please," roared the sheriff wrathfully, "but
---- my soul to ---- if any ---- ---- cuss has a right to use such
---- ---- talk in the presence of a lady!"



Before I had ceased chuckling over the sheriff's indignant declaration
of the canons of etiquette, I heard Mr. Cullen's voice demanding to
know what the trouble was, and it was quickly explained to him that I
had escaped. He at once gave them permission to search his car, and
went in with the sheriff and the cowboys. Apparently Madge went in
too, for in a moment I heard Camp say, in a low voice--

"Two of you fellows get down below the car and crawl in under the
truck where you can't be seen. Evidently that cuss isn't here, but
he's likely to come by and by. If so, nab him if you can, and if you
can't, fire two shots. Mosely, are you heeled?"

"Do I chaw terbaccy?" asked Mosely, ironically, clearly insulted at
the suggestion that he would travel without a gun.

"Then keep a sharp lookout, and listen to everything you hear,
especially the whereabouts of some letters. If you can spot their lay,
crawl out and get word to me at once. Now, under you go before they
come out."

I heard two men drop into the gravel close alongside of where I lay,
and then crawl under the truck of 218. They weren't a moment too
soon, for the next instant I heard two or three people jump on to the
platform, and Albert Cullen's voice drawl, "Aw, by Jove, what's the
row?" Camp not enlightening them, Lord Ralles suggested that they
get on the car to find out, and the three did so. A moment later the
sheriff came to the door and told Camp that I was not to be found.

"I told yer this was the last place to look for the cuss, Mr. Camp,"
he said. "We've just discomforted the lady for nothin'."

"Then we must search elsewhere," spoke up Camp. "Come on, boys."

The sheriff turned and made another elaborate apology for having had
to trouble the lady.

I heard Madge tell him that he hadn't troubled her at all, and then,
as the cowboys and Camp walked off, she added, "And, Mr. Gunton, I
want to thank you for reproving Mr. Camp's dreadful swearing."

"Thank yer, miss," said the sheriff. "We fellers are a little rough at
times, but ---- me if we don't know what's due to a lady."

"Papa," said Madge, as soon as he was out of hearing, "the sheriff is
the most beautiful swearer I ever heard."

For a while there was silence round the station; I suppose the party
in 218 were comparing notes, while the two cowboys and I had the best
reasons for being quiet. Presently, however, the men came out of the
car and jumped down on the platform. Madge evidently followed them to
the door, for she called, "Please let me know the moment something
happens or you learn anything."

"Better go to bed, Madgy," Albert called. "You'll only worry, and it's
after three."

"I couldn't sleep if I tried," she answered.

Their footsteps died away in a moment, and I heard her close the door
of 218. In a few moments she opened it again, and, stepping down to
the station platform, began to pace up and down it. If I had only
dared, I could have put my finger through the crack of the planks and
touched her foot as she walked over my head, but I was afraid it might
startle her into a shriek, and there was no explaining to her what it
meant without telling the cowboys how close they were to their quarry.

Madge hadn't walked from one end of the platform to the other more
than three or four times, when I heard some one coming. She evidently
heard it also, for she said--

"I began to be afraid you hadn't understood me."

"I thought you told me to see first if I were needed," responded a
voice that even the distance and the planks did not prevent me from
recognizing as that of Lord Ralles.

"Yes," said she. "You are sure you can be spared?"

"I couldn't be of the slightest use," asserted Ralles, getting on to
the platform and joining Madge. "It's as black as ink everywhere, and
I don't think there's anything to be done till daylight."

"Then I'm glad you came back, for I really want to say something--to
ask the greatest favor of you."

"You only have to tell me what it is," said his lordship.

"Even that is very hard," murmured Madge. "If--if--Oh! I'm afraid I
haven't the courage, after all."

"I'll be glad to do anything I can."

"It's--well--Oh, dear, I can't. Let's walk a little, while I think how
to put it."

They began to walk, which took a weight off my mind, as I had been
forced to hear every word thus far spoken, and was dreading what might
follow, since I was perfectly helpless to warn them. The platform was
built around the station, and in a moment they were out of hearing.

Before many seconds were over, however, they had walked round the
building, and I heard Lord Ralles say--

"You really don't mean that he's insulted you?"

"That is just what I do mean," cried Madge, indignantly. "It's been
almost past endurance. I haven't dared to tell any one, but he had the
cruelty, the meanness, on Hance's trail to threaten that--"

At that point the walkers turned the corner again, and I could not
hear the rest of the sentence. But I had heard more than enough to
make me grow hot with mortification, even while I could hardly believe
I had understood aright. Madge had been so kind to me lately that I
couldn't think she had been feeling as bitterly as she spoke. That
such an apparently frank girl was a consummate actress wasn't to be
thought, and yet--I remembered how well she had played her part on
Hance's trail; but even that wouldn't convince me. Proof of her
duplicity came quickly enough, for, while I was still thinking, the
walkers were round again, and Lord Ralles was saying--

"Why haven't you complained to your father or brothers?"

"Because I knew they would resent his conduct to me, and--"

"Of course they would," cried her companion, interrupting. "But why
should you object to that?"

"Because of the letters," explained Madge. "Don't you see that if we
made him angry he would betray us to Mr. Camp, and--"

Then they passed out of hearing, leaving me almost desperate, both at
being an eavesdropper to such a conversation, and that Madge could
think so meanly of me. To say it, too, to Lord Ralles made it cut all
the deeper, as any fellow who had been in love will understand.

Round they came again in a moment, and I braced myself for the lash
of the whip that I felt was coming. I didn't escape it, for Madge was

"Can you conceive of a man pretending to care for a girl and yet
treating her so? I can't tell you the grief, the mortification, I
have endured." She spoke with a half-sob in her throat, as if she was
struggling not to cry, which made me wish I had never been born. "It's
been all I could do to control myself in his presence, I have come so
utterly to hate and despise him," she added.

"I don't wonder," growled Lord Ralles. "My only surprise is--"

With that they passed out of hearing again, leaving me fairly
desperate with shame, grief, and, I'm afraid, with anger.

I felt at once guilty and yet wronged. I knew my conduct on the trail
must have seemed to her ungentlemanly because I had never dared
to explain that my action there had been a pure bluff, and that I
wouldn't have really searched her for--well, for anything; but though
she might think badly of me for that, yet I had done my best to
counter-balance it, and was running big risks, both present and
eventual, for Madge's sake. Yet here she was acknowledging that thus
far she had used me as a puppet, while all the time disliking me. It
was a terrible blow, made all the harder by the fact that she was
proving herself such a different girl from the one I loved--so
different, in fact, that, despite what I had heard, I couldn't quite
believe it of her, and found myself seeking to extenuate and even
justify her conduct. While I was doing this, they came within hearing,
and Lord Ralles was speaking.

"--with you," he said. "But I still do not see what I can do, however
much I may wish to serve you."

"Can't you go to him and insist that he--or tell him what I really
feel toward him--or anything, in fact, to shame him? I really can't go
on acting longer."

That reached the limit of my endurance, and I crawled from my burrow,
intending to get out from under that platform, whether I was caught or
not. I know it was a foolish move; after having heard what I had, a
little more or less was quite immaterial. But I entirely forgot my
danger, in the sting of what Madge had said, and my one thought was to
stand face to face with her long enough to--I'm sure I don't know what
I intended to say.

Just as I reached the plank, however, I heard Lord Ralles ask--

"Who's that?"

"It's me," said a voice,--"the station agent." Then I heard a
door close. Some one walked out to the centre of the platform and

"That 'ere way freight is late."

At least the letters were recovered.



If the letters were safe, that was a good deal more than I was. The
moment the station-master had made his agreed-upon announcement, he
said to the walkers--

"Had any news of Mr. Gordon?"

"No," replied Lord Ralles. "And, as the lights keep moving in the
town, they must still be hunting for him."

"I reckon they'll do considerable more huntin' before they find him up
there," chuckled the man, with a self-important manner. "He's hidden
away under this ere platform."

"Not right here?" I heard Madge cry, but I had too much to do to take
in what followed. I was lying close to the loose plank, and even
before the station-master had completed his sentence I was squirming
through the crack. As I freed my legs I heard two shots, which I knew
was the signal given by the cowboys, followed by a shriek of fright
from Madge, for which she was hardly to be blamed. I was on my feet in
an instant and ran down the tracks at my best speed. It wasn't with
much hope of escape, for once out from under the planking I found,
what I had not before realized, that day was dawning, and already
outlines at a distance could be seen. However, I was bound to do my
best, and I did it.

Before I had run a hundred feet I could hear pursuers, and a moment
later a revolver cracked, ploughing up the dust in front of me.
Another bullet followed, and, seeing that affairs were getting
desperate, I dodged round the end of some cars, only to plump into a
man running at full speed. The collision was so unexpected that we
both fell, and before I could get on my feet one of my pursuers
plumped down on top of me and I felt something cold on the back of my

"Lie still, yer sneakin' coyote of a road agent," said the man, "or
I'll blow yer so full of lead that yer couldn't float in Salt Lake."

I preferred to take his advice, and lay quiet while the cowboys
gathered. From all directions I heard them coming, calling to each
other that "the skunk that shot the woman is corralled," and other
forms of the same information. In a moment I was jerked to my feet,
only to be swept off them with equal celerity, and was half carried,
half dragged, along the tracks. It wasn't as rough handling as I have
taken on the foot-ball-field, but I didn't enjoy it.

In a space of time that seemed only seconds, I was close to a
telegraph-pole; but, brief as the moment had been, a fellow with a
lariat tied round his waist was half-way up the post. I knew the
mob had been told that I had killed a woman in the hold-up, for the
cowboy, bad as he is, has his own standards, beyond which he won't go.
But I might as well have tried to tell my innocence to the moon as
to get them to listen to denials, even if I could have made my voice

The lariat was dropped over the cross-piece, and as a man adjusted the
noose a sudden silence fell. I thought it was a little sense of what
they were doing, but it was merely due to the command of Baldwin, who,
with Camp, stood just outside the mob.

"Let me say a word before you pull," he called, and then to me he
said, "Now will you give up the property?"

I was pretty pale and shaky, but I come of stiffish stock, and I
wouldn't have backed down then, it seemed to me, if they had been
going to boil me alive. I suppose it sounds foolish, and if I had had
plenty of time I have no doubt my common-sense would have made me
crawl. Not having time, I was on the point of saying "No," when the
door of 218, which lay about two hundred yards away, flew open, and
out came Mr. Cullen, Fred, Albert, Lord Ralles, and Captain Ackland,
all with rifles. Of course it was perfect desperation for the five to
tackle the cowboys, but they were game to do it, all the same.

How it would have ended I don't know, but as they sprang off the car
platform Miss Cullen came out on it, and stood there, one hand holding
on to the door-way, as if she needed support, and the other covering
her heart. It was too far for me to see her face, but the whole
attitude expressed such suffering that it was terrible to see. What
was more, her position put her in range of every shot the cowboys
might fire at the five as they charged. If I could have stopped them I
would have done so, but, since that was impossible, I cried--

"Mr. Camp, I'll surrender the letters."

"Hold on, boys," shouted Baldwin; "wait till we get the property he
stole." And, coming through the crowd, he threw the noose off my neck.

"Don't shoot, Mr. Cullen," I yelled, as my friends halted and raised
their rifles, and, fortunately, the cowboys had opened up enough to
let them hear me and see that I was free of the rope.

Escorted by Camp, Baldwin, and the cowboys, I walked toward them. On
the way Baldwin said, in a low voice, "Deliver the letters, and we'll
tell the boys there has been a mistake. Otherwise--"

When we came up to the five, I called to them that I had agreed to
surrender the letters. While I was saying it, Miss Cullen joined them,
and it was curious to see how respectfully the cowboys took off their
hats and fell back.

"You are quite right," Mr. Cullen called. "Give them the letters at

"Oh, do, Mr. Gordon," said Madge, still white and breathless with
emotion. "The money is nothing. Don't think--" It was all she could

I felt pretty small, but with Camp and Baldwin, now reinforced by
Judge Wilson, I went to the station, ordered the agent to open the
safe, took out the three letters, and handed them to Mr. Camp,
realizing how poor Madge must have felt on Hance's trail. It was a
pretty big take down to my pride I tell you, and made all the worse by
the way the three gloated over the letters and over our defeat.

"We've taught you a lesson, young man," sneered Camp, as after opening
the envelopes, to assure himself that the proxies were all right, he
tucked them into his pocket. "And we'll teach you another one after
to-day's election."

Just as he concluded, we heard outside the first note of a bugle, and
as it sounded "By fours, column left," my heart gave a big jump, and
the blood came rushing to my face. Camp, Baldwin, and Wilson broke
for the door, but I got there first, and prevented their escape. They
tried to force their way through, but I hadn't blocked and interfered
at football for nothing, and they might as well have tried to break
through the Sierras. Discovering this, Camp whipped out his gun, and
told me to let them out. Being used to the West, I recognized the
goodness of the argument and stepped out on the platform, giving them
free passage. But the twenty seconds I had delayed them had cooked
their goose, for outside was a squadron of cavalry swinging a circle
round the station; and we had barely reached the platform when the
bugle sounded "Halt," quickly followed by "Forward left." As the ranks
wheeled, and closed up as a solid line about us, I could have cheered
with delight. There was a moment's dramatic hush, in which we could
all hear the breathing of the winded horses, and then came the clatter
of sword and spurs, as an officer sprang from his saddle.

"I want Richard Gordon," the officer called.

I responded, "At your service, and badly in need of yours, Captain

"Hope the delay hasn't spoilt things," said the captain. "We had a
cursed fool of a guide, who took the wrong trail and ran us into
Limestone Canon, where we had to camp for the night."

I explained the situation as quickly as I could, and the captain's
eyes gleamed. "I'd have given a bad quarter to have got here ten
minutes sooner and ridden my men over those scoundrels," he muttered.
"I saw them scatter as we rode up, and if I'd known what they'd been
doing we'd have given them a volley." Then he walked over to Mr. Camp
and said, "Give me those letters."

"I hold those letters by virtue of an order--" Camp began.

"Give me those letters," the captain interrupted.

"Do you intend a high-handed interference with the civil authorities?"
Judge Wilson demanded.

"Come, come," said the captain, sternly. "You have taken forcible
possession of United States property. Any talk about civil authorities
is rubbish, and you know it."

"I will never--" cried Mr. Camp.

"Corporal Jackson, dismount a guard of six men," rang the captain's
voice, interrupting him.

Evidently something in the voice or order convinced Mr. Camp, for the
letters were hastily produced and given to Singer, who at once handed
them to me. I turned with them to the Cullens, and, laughing, quoted,
"'All's well that ends well.'"

But they didn't seem to care a bit about the recovery of the letters,
and only wanted to have a hand-shake all round over my escape. Even
Lord Ralles said, "Glad we could be of a little service," and didn't
refuse my thanks, though the deuce knows they were badly enough
expressed, in my consciousness that I had done an ungentlemanly trick
over those trousers of his, and that he had been above remembering it
when I was in real danger. I'm ashamed enough to confess that when
Miss Cullen held out her hand I made believe not to see it. I'm a bad
hand at pretending, and I saw Madge color up at my act.

The captain finally called me off to consult about our proceedings. I
felt no very strong love for Camp, Baldwin, or Wilson, but I didn't
see that a military arrest would accomplish anything, and after a
little discussion it was decided to let them alone, as we could well
afford to do, having won.

This matter decided, I said to the captain, "I'll be obliged if you'll
put a guard round my car. And then, if you and your officers will come
inside it, I have a--something in a bottle, recommended for removing
alkali dust from the tonsils."

"Very happy to test your prescription," responded Singer, genially.

I started to go with him, but I couldn't resist turning to Mr. Camp
and his friends and saying--

"Gentlemen, the G.S. is a big affair, but it isn't quite big enough to
fight the U.S."



At that point my importance ceased. Apparently seeing that the game
was up, Mr. Camp later in the morning asked Mr. Cullen to give him an
interview, and when he was allowed to pass the sentry he came to the
steps and suggested--

"Perhaps we can arrange a compromise between the Missouri Western and
the Great Southern?"

"We can try," Mr. Cullen assented. "Come into my car." He made way for
Mr. Camp, and was about to follow him, when Madge took hold of her
father's arm, and, making him stoop, whispered something to him.

"What kind of a place?" asked Mr. Cullen, laughing.

"A good one," his daughter replied.

I thought I understood what was meant. She didn't want to rest under
an obligation, and so I was to be paid up for what I had done by
promotion. It made me grit my teeth, and if I hadn't taught myself not
to swear, because of my position, I could have given sheriff Gunton
points on cursing. I wanted to speak up right there and tell Miss
Cullen what I thought of her.

Of the interview which took place inside 218, I can speak only at
second-hand, and the world knows about as well as I how the contest
was compromised by the K. & A. being turned over to the Missouri
Western, the territory in Southern California being divided between
the California Central and the Great Southern, and a traffic
arrangement agreed upon that satisfied the G.S. That afternoon a
Missouri Western board for the K. & A. was elected without opposition,
and they in turn elected Mr. Cullen president of the K. & A.; so when
my report of the holding-up went in, he had the pleasure of reading
it. I closed it with a request for instructions, but I never received
any, and that ended the matter. I turned over the letters to the
special agent at Flagstaff, and I suppose his report is slumbering in
some pigeon-hole in Washington, for I should have known of any attempt
to bring the culprits to punishment. Mr. Cullen had taken a big risk,
but came out of it with a great lot of money, for the Missouri Western
bought all his holdings in the K. & A. and C.C. But the scare must
have taught him a lesson, for ever since then he's been conservative,
and talks about the foolishness of investors who try to get more than
five per cent, or who think of anything but good railroad bonds.

As for myself, a month after these occurrences I was appointed
superintendent of the Missouri Western, which by this deal had become
one of the largest railroad systems in the world. It was a big step
up for so young a man, and was of course pure favoritism, due to Mr.
Cullen's influence. I didn't stay in the position long, for within two
years I was offered the presidency of the Chicago & St. Paul, and
I think that was won on merit. Whether or not, I hold the position
still, and have made my road earn and pay dividends right through the

All this is getting away ahead of events, however. The election
delayed us so that we couldn't couple on to No. 4 that afternoon, and
consequently we had to lie that night at Ash Fork. I made the officers
my excuse for keeping away from the Cullens, as I wished to avoid
Madge. I did my best to be good company to the bluecoats, and had a
first-class dinner for them on my car, but I was in a pretty glum
mood, which even champagne couldn't modify. Though all necessity of a
guard ceased with the compromise, the cavalry remained till the next
morning, and, after giving them a good breakfast, about six o'clock we
shook hands, the bugle sounded, and off they rode. For the first time
I understood how a fellow disappointed in love comes to enlist.

When I turned about to go into my car, I found Madge standing on the
platform of 218 waving a handkerchief. I paid no attention to her, and
started up my steps.

"Mr. Gordon," she said--and when I looked at her I saw that she was
flushing--"what is the matter?"

I suppose most fellows would have found some excuse, but for the life
of me I couldn't. All I was able to say was--

"I would rather not say, Miss Cullen."

"How unfair you are!" she cried. "You--without the slightest reason
you suddenly go out of your way to ill-treat--insult me, and yet will
not tell me the cause."

That made me angry. "Cause?" I cried. "As if you didn't know of a
cause! What you don't know is that I overheard your conversation with
Lord Ralles night before last."

"My conversation with Lord Ralles?" exclaimed Madge, in a bewildered

"Yes," I said bitterly, "keep up the acting. The practice is good,
even if it deceives no one."

"I don't understand a word you are saying," she retorted, getting
angry in turn. "You speak as if I had done wrong--as if--I don't know
what; and I have a right to know to what you allude."

"I don't see how I can be any clearer," I muttered. "I was under the
station platform, hiding from the cowboys, while you and Lord Ralles
were walking. I didn't want to be a listener, but I heard a good deal
of what you said."

"But I didn't walk with Lord Ralles," she cried, "The only person I
walked with was Captain Ackland."

That took me very much aback, for I had never questioned in my mind
that it wasn't Lord Ralles. Yet the moment she spoke, I realized how
much alike the two brothers' voices were, and how easily the blurring
of distance and planking might have misled me. For a moment I was
speechless. Then I replied coldly--

"It makes no difference with whom you were. What you said was the
essential part."

"But how could you for an instant suppose that I could say what I did
to Lord Ralles?" she demanded.

"I naturally thought he would be the one to whom you would appeal
concerning my 'insulting' conduct."

Madge looked at me for a moment as if transfixed. Then she laughed,
and cried--

"Oh, you idiot!"

While I still looked at her in equal amazement, she went on, "I beg
your pardon, but you are so ridiculous that I had to say it. Why, I
wasn't talking about you, but about Lord Ralles."

"Lord Ralles!" I cried.


"I don't understand," I exclaimed.

"Why, Lord Ralles has been--has been--oh, he's threatened that if I

"You mean he--?" I began, and then stopped, for I couldn't believe my

"Oh," she burst out, "of course you couldn't understand, and you
probably despise me already, but if you knew how I scorn myself, Mr.
Gordon, and what I have endured from that man, you would only pity

Light broke on me suddenly. "Do you mean, Miss Cullen," I cried
hotly, "that he's been cad enough to force his attentions upon you by

"Yes. First he made me endure him because he was going to help us, and
from the moment the robbery was done, he has been threatening to tell.
Oh, how I have suffered!"

Then I said a very silly thing. "Miss Cullen," I groaned, "I'd give
anything if I were only your brother." For the moment I really meant

"I haven't dared to tell any of them," she explained, "because I knew
they would resent it and make Lord Ralles angry, and then he would
tell, and so ruin papa. It seemed such a little thing to bear for his
sake, but, oh, it's been--suppose you despise me!"

"I never dreamed of despising you," I said. "I only thought, of
course--seeing what I did--and--that you were fond--No--that is--I
mean--well--The beast!" I couldn't help exclaiming.

"Oh," said Madge, blushing, and stammering breathlessly, "you mustn't
think--there was really--you happened to--usually I managed to
keep with papa or my brothers, or else run away, as I did when he
interrupted my letter-writing--when you thought we had--but it was
nothing of the--I kept away just--but the night of the robbery I
forgot, and on the trail his mule blocked the path. He never--there
really wasn't--you saved me the only time he--he--that he was really
rude; and I am so grateful for it, Mr. Gordon."

I wasn't in a mood to enjoy even Miss Cullen's gratitude. Without
stopping for words, I dashed into 218, and, going straight to Albert
Cullen, I shook him out of a sound sleep, and before he could well
understand me I was alternately swearing at him and raging at Lord

Finally he got the truth through his head, and it was nuts to me, even
in my rage, to see how his English drawl disappeared, and how quick he
could be when he really became excited.

I left him hurrying into his clothes, and went to my car, for I didn't
dare to see the exodus of Lord Ralles, through fear that I couldn't
behave myself. Albert came into 97 in a few moments to say that the
Englishmen were going to the hotel as soon as dressed, the captain
having elected to stay by his brother.

"I wouldn't have believed it of Ralles. I feel jolly cut up, you
know," he drawled.

I had been so enraged over Lord Ralles that I hadn't stopped to reckon
in what position I stood myself toward Miss Cullen, but I didn't have
to do much thinking to know that I had behaved about as badly as was
possible for me. And the worst of it was that she could not know that
right through the whole I had never quite been able to think badly of
her. I went out on the platform of the station, and was lucky enough
to find her there alone.

"Miss Cullen," I said, "I've been ungentlemanly and suspicious, and
I'm about as ashamed of myself as a man can be and not jump into the
Grand Canon. I've not come to you to ask your forgiveness, for I can't
forgive myself, much less expect it of you. But I want you to know how
I feel, and if there's any reparation, apology, anything, that you'd
like, I'll--"

Madge interrupted my speech there by holding out her hand.

"You don't suppose," she said, "that, after all you have done for us,
I could be angry over what was merely a mistake?"

That's what I call a trump of a girl, worth loving for a lifetime.

Well, we coupled on to No. 2 that morning and started East, this time
Mr. Cullen's car being the "ender." All on 218 were wildly jubilant,
as was natural, but I kept growing bluer and bluer. I took a farewell
dinner on their car the night we were due in Albuquerque, and
afterward Miss Cullen and I went out and sat on the back platform.

"I've had enough adventures to talk about for a year," Madge said, as
we chatted the whole thing over, "and you can no longer brag that the
K. & A. has never had a robbery, even if you didn't lose anything."

"I have lost something," I sighed sadly.

Madge looked at me quickly, started to speak, hesitated, and then
said, "Oh, Mr. Gordon, if you only could know how badly I have felt
about that, and how I appreciate the sacrifice."

I had only meant that I had lost my heart, and, for that matter,
probably my head, for it would have been ungenerous even to hint to
Miss Cullen that I had made any sacrifice of conscience for her sake,
and I would as soon have asked her to pay for it in money as have told

"You mustn't think--" I began.

"I have felt," she continued, "that your wish to serve us made you do
something you never would have otherwise done, for--Well, you--any one
can see how truthful and honest--and it has made me feel so badly that
we--Oh, Mr. Gordon, no one has a right to do wrong in the world, for
it brings such sadness and danger to innocent--And you have been so

I couldn't let this go on. "What I did," I told her, "was to fight
fire with fire, and no one is responsible for it but myself."

"I should like to think that, but I can't," she said. "I know we all
tried to do something dishonest, and while you didn't do any real
wrong, yet I don't think you would have acted as you did except for
our sake. And I'm afraid you may some day regret--"

"I sha'n't," I cried; "and, so far from meaning that I had lost my
self-respect, I was alluding to quite another thing."

"Time?" she asked.



"Something else you have stolen."

"I haven't," she denied.

"You have," I affirmed.

"You mean the novel?" she asked; "because I sent it in to 97

"I don't mean the novel."

"I can't think of anything more but those pieces of petrified wood,
and those you gave me," she said demurely. "I am sure that whatever
else I have of yours you have given me without even my asking, and if
you want it back you've only got to say so."

"I suppose that would be my very best course," I groaned.

"I hate people who force a present on one," she continued, "and then,
just as one begins to like it, want it back."

Before I could speak, she asked hurriedly, "How often do you come to

I took that to be a sort of command that I was to wait, and though
longing to have it settled then and there, I braked myself up and
answered her question. Now I see what a duffer I was--Madge told
me afterward that she asked only because she was so frightened and
confused that she felt she must stop my speaking for a moment.

I did my best till I heard the whistle the locomotive gives as it
runs into yard limits, and then rose. "Good-by, Miss Cullen," I said,
properly enough, though no death-bed farewell was ever more gloomily
spoken; and she responded, "Good-by, Mr. Gordon," with equal

I held her hand, hating to let her go, and the first thing I knew, I
blurted out, "I wish I had the brass of Lord Ralles!"

"I don't," she laughed, "because, if you had, I shouldn't be willing
to let you--"

And what she was going to say, and why she didn't say it, is the
concern of no one but Mr. and Mrs. Richard Gordon.




The sun was setting on the second day of June, in the year 1701, when
Pietro Falier, the Captain of the Police of Venice, quitted his office
in the Piazzetta of St. Mark and set out, alone, for the Palace of
Fra Giovanni, the Capuchin friar, who lived over on the Island of the

"I shall return in an hour," he said to his subordinate as he stepped
into the black gondola which every Venetian knew so well. "If any has
need of me, I am at the house of Fra Giovanni."

The subordinate saluted, and returned slowly toward the ducal palace.
He was thinking that his Captain went over-much just then to the house
of that strange friar who had come to Venice so mysteriously, and so
mysteriously had won the favor of the republic.

"Saint John!" he muttered to himself, "that we should dance attendance
on a shaven crown--we, who were the masters of the city a year ago!
What is the Captain thinking of? Are we all women, then, or have
women plucked our brains that it should be Fra Giovanni this and Fra
Giovanni that, and your tongue snapped off if you so much as put a
question. To the devil with all friars, say I."

The good fellow stopped a moment in his walk to lay the flat of his
sword across the shoulders of a mountebank, who had dared to remain
seated at the door of his booth while so great a person passed. Then
he returned to his office, and whispered in the ear of his colleague
the assurance that the Captain was gone again to the island of the
Jews, and that his business was with the friar.

"And look you, Michele," said he, "it is neither to you nor to me that
he comes nowadays. Not a whisper of it, as I live, except to this
friar, whom I could crush between my fingers as a glass ball out of

His colleague shook his head.

"There have been many," said he, "who have tried to crush Fra
Giovanni. They grin between the bars of dungeons, my friend--at least,
those who have heads left to grin with. Be warned of me, and make an
ally of the man who has made an ally of Venice. The Captain knows well
what he is doing. If he has gone to the priest's house now, it is that
the priest may win rewards for us again, as he has won them already a
hundred times.

He spoke earnestly, though, in truth, his guess was not a good one.
The Captain of the Police had not gone to the Island of the Guidecca
to ask a service of the friar; he had gone, as he thought, to save the
friar's life. At the moment when his subordinates were wagging their
heads together, he himself stood in the priest's house, before the
very table at which Fra Giovanni sat busy with his papers and his

"I implore you to listen to me, Prince!" he had just exclaimed very
earnestly, as he repeated the news for the second time, and stood
clamorous for the answer to his question.

The friar, who was dressed in the simple habit of the Capuchins, and
who wore his cowl over his head so that only his shining black eyes
could be seen, put down his pen when he heard himself addressed as

"Captain," he said sharply, "who is this person you come here to warn?
You speak of him as 'Prince.' It is some other, then, and not myself?"

The Captain bit his lip. He was one of the four in Venice who knew
something of Fra Giovanni's past.

"Your Excellency's pardon," he exclaimed very humbly; "were we not
alone, you would find me more discreet. I know well that the Prince
of Iseo is dead--in Venice at least. But to Fra Giovanni, his near
kinsman, I say beware, for there are those here who have sworn he
shall not live to say Mass again."

For an instant a strange light came into the priest's eyes. But he
gave no other sign either of surprise or of alarm.

"They have sworn it--you know their names, Captain?"

"The police do not concern themselves with names, Excellency."

"Which means that you do not know their names, Captain?"

Pietro Falier sighed. This friar never failed to humble him, he
thought. If it were not for the honors which the monk had obtained for
the police since he began his work in Venice, the Captain said that he
would not lift a hand to save him from the meanest bravo in Italy.

"You do not know their names, Captain--confess, confess," continued
the priest, raising his hand in a bantering gesture; "you come to me
with some gossip of the bed-chamber, your ears have been open in
the market-place, and this tittle-tattle is your purchase--confess,

The Captain flushed as he would have done before no other in all

"I do not know their names, Excellency," he stammered; "it is gossip
from the _bravo's_ kitchen. They say that you are to die before Mass
to-morrow. I implore you not to leave this house to-night. We shall
know how to do the rest if you will but remain indoors."

It was an earnest entreaty, but it fell upon deaf ears. The priest
answered by taking a sheet of paper and beginning to write upon it.

"I am indebted to you, Signor Falier," said he, quietly, "and you know
that I am not the man to forget my obligations. None the less, I fear
that I must disregard your warning, for I have an appointment in the
market to-night, and my word is not so easily broken. Let me reassure
you a little. The news that you bring to me, and for which I am your
debtor, was known to me three days ago. Here upon this paper I have
written down the name of the woman and of her confederates who have
hired the _bravo_ Rocca to kill me to-night in the shadow of the
church of San Salvatore. You will read that paper and the woman's
name--when you have my permission."

Falier stepped back dumb with amazement.

"The woman's name, Excellency," he repeated, so soon as his surprise
permitted him to speak, "you know her, then?"

"Certainly, or how could I write it upon the paper?"

"But you will give that paper to me, here and now. Think, Excellency,
if she is your enemy, she is the enemy also of Venice. What forbids
that we arrest her at once? You may not be alive at dawn!"

"In which case," exclaimed the priest, satirically, "the Signori of
the Night would be well able to answer for the safety of the city. Is
it not so, Captain?"

Falier stammered an excuse.

"We have not your eyes, Excellency; we cannot work miracles--but at
least we can try to protect you from the hand of the assassin. Name
this woman to me, and she shall not live when midnight strikes."

Fra Giovanni rose from his chair and put his hand gently upon the
other's shoulder.

"Signer Falier," said he, "if I told you this woman's name here and
now as you ask, the feast of Corpus Christi might find a new Doge in

"You say, Excellency--?"

"That the city is in danger as never she was before in her history."

"And your own life?"

"Shall be given for Venice if necessary. Listen to this: you seek to
be of service to me. Have you any plan?"

"No plan but that which posts guards at your door and keeps you within
these walls--"

"That the enemies of Venice may do their work. Is that your reason,
Signor Falier?"

"I have no other reason, Excellency, but your own safety and that of
the city."

"I am sure of it, Captain, and being sure I am putting my life in your
hands to-night--"

"To-night; we are to follow you to the Merceria, then?"

"Not at all; say rather that you are to return to the palace and to
keep these things so secret that even the Council has no word of them.
But, at ten o'clock, take twenty of your best men and let your boat
lie in the shadow of the church of San Luca until I have need of you.
You understand, Captain Falier?"

Falier nodded his head and replied vaguely. Truth to tell, he
understood very little beyond this--that the friar had been before him
once more, and that he could but follow as a child trustingly. And the
city was in danger! His heart beat quick when he heard the words.

"Excellency," he stammered, "the boat shall be there--at ten
o'clock--in the shadow of the church of San Luca. But first--"

"No," said the priest, quickly, "we have done with our firstly--and
your gondola waits, I think, signore!"


The bells of the Chapel of St. Mark were striking the hour of eight
o'clock when, Fra Giovanni stepped from his gondola, and crossed the
great square toward that labyrinth of narrow streets and winding
alleys they call the Merceria.

The Piazza itself was then ablaze with the light of countless lamps;
dainty lanterns, colored as the rainbow, swayed to the soft breeze
between the arches of the colonnade. Nobles were seated at the doors
of the splendid cafes; the music of stringed instruments mingled with
the louder, sweeter music of the bells; women, whose jewels were as
sprays of flame, many-hued and dazzling, hung timidly upon the arms of
lovers; gallants swaggered in costly velvets and silks which were the
spoil of the generous East; even cassocked priests and monks in their
sombre habits passed to and fro amidst that glittering throng, come
out to herald the glory of a summer's night.

And clear and round, lifting themselves up through the blue haze to
the silent world of stars above, were the domes and cupolas of the
great chapel itself--the chapel which, through seven centuries, had
been the city's witness to the God who had made her great, and who
would uphold her still before the nations.

The priest passed through the crowd swiftly, seeming to look neither
to the right nor to the left. The brown habit of the Capuchins was his
dress, and his cowl was drawn so well over his head that only his eyes
were visible--those eyes which stand out so strangely in the many
portraits which are still the proud possession of Venice. Though he
knew well that an assassin waited for him in the purlieus of the
church of San Salvatore, his step was quick and brisk; he walked as
a man who goes willingly to a rendezvous, and anticipates its climax
with pleasure. When he had left the great square with its blaze of
lanterns and its babel of tongues, and had begun to thread the narrow
streets by which he would reach the bridge of the Rialto, a smile
played for a moment about his determined mouth, and he drew his capuce
still closer over his ears.

"So it is Rocca whom they send--Rocca, the poltroon! Surely there is
the hand of God in this."

He raised his eyes for a moment to the starlit heaven, and then
continued his brisk walk. His way lay through winding alleys; over
bridges so narrow that two men could not pass abreast; through
passages where rogues lurked, and repulsive faces were thrust grinning
into his own. But he knew the city as one who had lived there all his
life; and for the others, the thieves and scum of Venice, he had
no thought. Not until he came out before the church of Santa Maria
Formosa did he once halt or look behind him. The mystery of the night
was a joy to him. Even in the shadow of the church, his rest was but
for a moment; and, as he rested, the meaning smile hovered again upon
his wan face.

"The play begins," he muttered, while he loosened slightly the girdle
of his habit and thrust his right hand inside it; "the God of Venice
give me courage."

A man was following him now--he was sure of it. He had seen him as
he turned to cross the bridge which would set him on the way to the
church of San Salvatore--a short, squat man, masked and dressed from
head to foot in black. Quick as the movements of the fellow were,
dexterous his dives into porches and the patches of shadow which
the eaves cast, the priest's trained eye followed his every turn,
numbered, as it were, the very steps he took. And the smile upon Fra
Giovanni's face was fitful no more. He walked as a man who has a great
jest for his company.

"Rocca the fool, and alone! They pay me a poor compliment, those new
friends of mine; but we shall repay, and the debt will be heavy."

He withdrew his hand from his habit, where it had rested upon the hilt
of a dagger, for he knew that he had no need of any weapon. His gait
was quick and careless; he stopped often to peer into some windowless
shop where a sickly lamp burned before the picture of a saint; and
wares, which had not tempted a dead generation, appealed unavailingly
to a living one. The idea that his very merriment might cost him his
life never entered his head. He played with the assassin as a cat
with a mouse, now tempting him to approach, now turning suddenly, and
sending him helter-skelter into the door of a shop or the shadow of a
bridge. He was sure of his man, and that certainty was a delight to

"If it had been any other but Rocca the clown!" he said to himself,
his thoughts ever upon the jest; "surely we shall know what to say to

He had come almost to the church of San Salvatore by this time. His
walk had carried him out to the bank of a narrow, winding canal, at
whose quays once-splendid gondolas were rotting in neglect. It seemed
to him that here was the place where his tactics might well be changed
and the _role_ of the hunted put aside for that of the hunter. Quick
to act, he stepped suddenly behind one of the great wooden piles
driven into the quay for the warping of barges. The _bravo_, who did
not perceive that he had been detected, and who could not account for
the sudden disappearance of his prey, came straight on, his cloak
wrapped about his face, his naked sword in his hand. The wage would be
earned easily that night, he was telling himself. No one would miss a
beggarly monk--and he, Rocca, must live. A single blow, struck to the
right side of the back, and then--and then--

This pleasant anticipation was cut short abruptly by the total
disappearance of the man whose death was a preliminary to the wage he
anticipated so greedily. Mystified beyond measure, he let his cloak
fall back again, and began to peer into the shadows as though some
miracle had been wrought and the priest carried suddenly from earth to
that heaven whither he had meant to send him so unceremoniously.

"Blood of Paul!" he exclaimed angrily, turning about and about again,
"am I losing my eyes? A plague upon the place and the shadows."

He stamped his foot impotently, and was about to run back by the way
he had come when a voice spoke in the shadows; and at the sound of the
voice, the sword fell from the man's hand and he reeled back as from a

"Rocca Zicani, the Prince is waiting for you."

The assassin staggered against the door of a house, and stood there as
one paralyzed. He had heard those words once before in the dungeons of
Naples. They had been spoken by the Inquisitors who came to Italy with
one of the Spanish princes. Instantly he recalled the scene where
first he had listened to them--the dungeon draped in black--the
white-hot irons which had seared his flesh; the rack which had maimed
his limbs, the masked men who had tortured him.

"Great God!" he moaned, "not that--not that--"

The priest stepped from the shadows and stood in a place where the
feeble light of an oil lamp could fall upon his face. The laugh
hovered still about his lips. He regarded the trembling man with a
contempt he would not conceal.

"Upon my word, Signer Rocca," he exclaimed, "this is a poor welcome to
an old friend."

The _bravo_, who had fallen on his knees, for he believed that a trick
had again delivered him into the hands of his enemies, looked up at
the words, and stared at the monk as at an apparition.

"Holy Virgin!" he cried, "it is the Prince of Iseo."

The priest continued in the jester's tone:

"As you say, old comrade, the Prince of Iseo. Glory to God for the
good fortune which puts you in my path to-night! Oh, you are very glad
to see me, Signor Rocca, I'll swear to that. What, the fellow whom my
hands snatched from the rack in the house of the Duke of Naples--has
he no word for me? And he carries his naked sword in his hand; he has
the face of a woman and his knees tremble. What means this?"

He had seemed to speak in jest, but while the cowed man was still
kneeling before him, he, of a sudden, struck the sword aside, and,
stooping, he gripped the _bravo_ by the throat and dragged him from
the shelter of the porch to the water's edge. As iron were the
relentless hands; the man's eyes started from his head, the very
breath seemed to be crushed out of him in the grip of the terrible

"Signor Rocca, what means this?" the friar repeated. "A naked sword in
your hand and sweat upon your brow. Oh, oh! a tale, indeed! Shall I
read it to you, or shall I raise my voice and fetch those who will
read it for me--those who have the irons heated, and the boot so made
for your leg that no last in Italy shall better it. Speak, rascal,
shall I read you the tale?"

"Mercy, Prince, for the love of God!"

The priest released the pressure of his hands and let the other sink
at his feet.

"Who sent you, rogue?" he asked. "Who pays your wage?"

"I dare not tell you, Excellency."

"Dare not! _you_ dare not--you, whom a word will put to torture
greater than any you have dreamed of in your worst agonies; _you_ dare

"Excellency, the Countess of Treviso; I am her servant."

"And the man who sent her to the work--his name?"

"Andrea, Count of Pisa, Excellency."

The priest stepped back as one whose curiosity was entirely satisfied.

"Ah! I thought so. And the price they paid you, knave?"

"Forty silver ducats, Excellency,"

"Ho, ho! so that is the price of a friar in Venice."

The _bravo_ sought to join in the jest.

"Had they known it was the Prince of Iseo, it had been a hundred
thousand, Excellency."

Fra Giovanni did not listen to him. His quick brain was solving a
strange problem--the problem of the price that these people, in their
turn, should pay to Venice. When he had solved it, he turned to the
cringing figure at his feet.

"Signor Rocca," he said, "do you know of what I am thinking?"

"Of mercy, Excellency; of mercy for one who has not deserved it."

"But who can deserve it?"

"Excellency, hearken to me. I swear by all the saints--"

"In whose name you blaspheme, rascal. Have I not heard your oath in
Naples when the irons seared your flesh? Shall I listen again when the
fire is being made ready, and there is burning coal beneath the bed
you will lie upon to-night, Signor Rocca?"

"Oh! for God's sake, Excellency!"

"Not so; for the sake of Venice, rather."

"I will be your slave--I swear it on the cross--I will give my life--"

"Your precious life, Signor Rocca!--nay, what a profligate you are!"

Fra Giovanni's tone, perhaps, betrayed him. The trembling man began to
take heart a little.

"Prove me Excellency," he whined; "prove me here and now."

The friar made a pretence of debating it. After a little spell of
silence he bade the other rise.

"Come," he said, "your legs catch cold, my friend, and will burn
slowly. Stretch them here upon the Campo while I ask you some
questions. And remember, for every lie you tell me there shall be
another wedge in the boot you are about to wear. You understand that,

"Excellency, the man that could lie to the Prince of Iseo has yet to
be born."

It was a compliment spoken from the very heart; but the priest ignored

"Let us not speak of others, but of you and your friends. And,
firstly, of the woman who sent you. She is now--"

"In the Palazzo Pisani waiting news of you."

"You were to carry that news to her?"

"And to receive my wage, Excellency. But I did not know what work it
was--Holy God, I would not have come for--"

Fra Giovanni cut him short with a gesture of impatience.

"Tell me," he exclaimed, "the Count of Pisa, is he not the woman's

"They say so, signore."

"And he is at her house to-night?"

The man shook his head.

"Before Heaven, I do not know, Excellency. An hour ago, he sat at a
cafe in the great square."

"And the woman--was she alone when you left her?"

"There were three with her to sup."

The priest nodded his head.

"It is good!" he said; "we shall even presume to sup with her."

"To sup with her--but they will kill you, Excellency!"

"Ho, ho! see how this assassin is concerned for my life.

"Certainly I am. Have you not given me mine twice? I implore you not
to go to the house--"

He would have said more, but the splash of an oar in the narrow
canal by which they walked cut short his entreaties. A gondola was
approaching them; the cry of the gondolier, awakening echoes beneath
the eaves of the old houses, gave to Fra Giovanni that inspiration he
had been seeking now for some minutes.

"Rocca Zicani," he exclaimed, standing suddenly as the warning cry,
"_Stale_," became more distinct, "I am going to put your professions
to the proof."

"Excellency, I will do anything--"

"Then, if you would wake to-morrow with a head upon your shoulders,
enter that gondola, and go back to those who sent you. Demand your
wage of them--"

"But, Excellency--"

"Demand your wage of them," persisted the priest, sternly, "and say
that the man who was their enemy lies dead before the church of San
Salvatore. You understand me?"

A curious look came into the _bravo's_ eyes.

"Saint John!" he cried, "that I should have followed such a one as
you, Excellency!"

But the priest continued warningly:

"As you obey, so hope for the mercy of Venice. You deal with those who
know how to reward their friends and to punish their enemies. Betray
us, and I swear that no death in all Italy shall be such a death as
you will die at dawn to-morrow."

He raised his voice, and summoned the gondolier to the steps of the
quay. The _bravo_ threw himself down upon the velvet cushions with the
threat still ringing in his ears.

"Excellency," he said, "I understand. They shall hear that you are


Fra Giovanni stepped from his gondola, and stood at the door of the
Palazzo Pisani exactly at a quarter to ten o'clock. Thirty minutes had
passed since he had talked with the _bravo_, Rocca, and had put him
to the proof. The time was enough, he said; the tale would have been
told, the glad news of his own death already enjoyed by those who
would have killed him.

Other men, perhaps, standing there upon the threshold of so daring an
emprise, would have known some temptation of fear or hesitation in
such a fateful moment; but the great Capuchin friar neither paused nor
hesitated. That strange confidence in his own mission, his belief
that God had called him to the protection of Venice, perchance even a
personal conceit in his own skill as a swordsman, sent him hurrying to
the work. It was a draught of life to him to see men tremble at his
word; the knowledge which treachery poured into his ear was a study
finer than that of all the manuscripts in all the libraries of Italy.
And he knew that he was going to the Palazzo Pisani to humble one of
the greatest in the city--to bring the sons of Princes on their knees
before him.

There were many lights in the upper stories of the great house, but
the ground floor, with its barred windows and cell-like chambers, was
unlighted. The priest saw horrid faces grinning through the bars; the
faces of fugitives, fleeing the justice of Venice, outcasts of the
city, murderers. But these outcasts, in their turn, were silent when
they saw who came to the house, and they spoke of the strange guest in
muted exclamations of surprise and wonder.

"Blood of Paul! do you see that? It is the Capuchin himself and alone.
Surely there will be work to do anon."

"Ay, but does he come alone? Saint John! I would sooner slit a hundred
throats than have his shadow fall on me. Was it not he that hanged
Orso and the twelve! A curse upon the day he came to Venice."

So they talked in whispers, but the priest had passed already into the
great hall of the palace and was speaking to a lackey there.

"My friend," he said, "I come in the name of the Signori. If you would
not hear from them to-morrow, announce me to none."

The lackey drew back, quailing before the threat.

"Excellency," he exclaimed, "I am but a servant--"

"And shall find a better place as you serve Venice faithfully."

He passed on with noiseless steps, mounting the splendid marble
staircase upon which the masterpieces of Titian and of Paolo Veronese
looked down. At the head of the stairs, there was a painted door,
which he had but to open to find himself face to face with those who
were still telling each other that he was dead.

For an instant, perhaps, a sense of the danger of his mission
possessed him. He knew well that one false step, one word
undeliberated, would be paid for with his own blood. But even in the
face of this reckoning he did not hesitate. He was there to save
Venice from her enemies; the God of Venice would protect him. And
so without word or warning, he opened the door and stood, bold and
unflinching, before those he had come to accuse.

There were four at table, and one was a woman. The priest knew
her well. She had been called the most beautiful woman in
Venice--Catherine, Countess of Treviso. Still young, with a face which
spoke of ambition and of love, her white neck glittered with the
jewels it carried, her dress of blue velvet was such a dress as only a
noblewoman of Venice could wear. A queenly figure, the friar said, yet
one he would so humble presently that never should she hold up her
head again.

As for the others, the men who had cloaked conspiracy with a woman's
smile, he would know how to deal with them. Indeed, when he scanned
their faces and began to remember the circumstances under which he had
met them before, his courage was strengthened, and he forgot that he
had ever reasoned with it.

He stood in the shadows; but the four, close in talk, and thinking
that a lackey had entered the room, did not observe him. They were
laughing merrily at some jest, and filling the long goblets with the
golden wine of Cyprus, when at last he strode out into the light and
spoke to them. His heart beat quickly; he knew that this might be the
hour of his death, yet never had his voice been more sonorous or more

"Countess," he exclaimed, as he stepped boldly to the table and
confronted them, "I bring you a message from Andrea, the lord of

He had expected that the woman would cry out, or that the men would
leap to their feet and draw their swords; but the supreme moment
passed and no one spoke. A curious silence reigned in the place. From
without there floated up the gay notes of a gondolier's carol. The
splash of oars was heard, and the low murmur of voices. But within the
room you could have counted the tick of a watch--almost the beating of
a man's heart. And the woman was the first to find her tongue. She had
looked at the friar as she would have looked at the risen dead; but,
suddenly, with an effort which brought back the blood to her cheeks,
she rose from her seat and began to speak.

"Who are you?" she asked; "and why do you come to this house?"

Fra Giovanni advanced to the table so that they could see his face.

"Signora," he said, "the reason of my coming to this house I have
already told you. As to your other question, I am the Capuchin friar,
Giovanni, whom you desired your servant Rocca to kill at the church of
San Salvatore an hour ago."

The woman sank back into the chair; the blood left her face; she would
have swooned had not curiosity proved stronger than her terror.

"The judgment of God!" she cried.

Again, for a spell, there was silence in the room. The priest stood at
the end of the table telling himself that he must hold these four
in talk until the bells of San Luca struck ten o'clock, or pay for
failure with his life. The men, in their turn, were asking themselves
if he were alone.

"You are the Capuchin friar, Giovanni," exclaimed one of them
presently, taking courage of the silence, "what, then, is your message
from the Count of Pisa?"

"My message, signore, is this--that at ten o'clock to-night, the Count
of Pisa will have ceased to live."

A strange cry, terrible in its pathos, escaped the woman's lips. All
had risen to their feet again. The swords of the three leaped from
their scabbards. The instant of the priest's death seemed at hand. But
he stood, resolute, before them.

"At ten o'clock," he repeated sternly, "the Count of Pisa will have
ceased to live. That is his message, signori, to one in this house.
And to you, the Marquis of Cittadella, there is another message."

He turned to one of the three who had begun to rail at him, and raised
his hand as in warning. So great was the curiosity to hear his words
that the swords were lowered again, and again there could be heard the
ticking of a clock in the great room.

"For me--a message! Surely I am favored, signore."

"Of that you shall be the judge, since, at dawn to-morrow, your head
will lie on the marble slab between the columns of the Piazzetta."

They greeted him with shouts of ridicule.

"A prophet--a prophet!"

"A prophet indeed," he answered quietly, "who has yet a word to speak
to you, Andrea Foscari."

"To me!" exclaimed the man addressed, who was older than the others,
and who wore the stola of the nobility.

"Ay, to you, who are about to become a fugitive from the justice of
Venice. Midnight shall see you hunted in the hills, my lord; no house
shall dare to shelter you; no hand shall give you bread. When you
return to the city you would have betrayed, the very children shall
mock you for a beggar."

Foscari answered with an oath, and drew back. The third of the men, a
youth who wore a suit of white velvet, and whose vest was ablaze with
gold and jewels, now advanced jestingly.

"And for me, most excellent friar?"

"For you, Gian Mocenigo, a pardon in the name of that Prince of Venice
whose house you have dishonored."

Again they replied to him with angry gibes.

"A proof--a proof--we will put you to the proof, friar--here and now,
or, by God, a prophet shall pay with his life."

He saw that they were driven to the last point. While the woman stood
as a figure of stone at the table, the three advanced toward him and
drove him back before their threatening swords. The new silence was
the silence of his death anticipated. He thought that his last word
was spoken in vain. Ten o'clock would never strike, he said. Yet even
as hope seemed to fail him, and he told himself that the end had come,
the bells of the city began to strike the hour, and the glorious music
of their echoes floated over the sleeping waters.

"A proof, you ask me for a proof, signori," he exclaimed triumphantly.
"Surely, the proof lies in yonder room, where all the world may see

He pointed to a door opening in the wall of mirrors, and giving access
to a smaller chamber. Curiosity drove the men thither. They threw open
the door; they entered the room; they reeled back drunk with their own

For the body of Andrea, lord of Pisa, lay, still warm, upon the marble
pavement of the chamber, and the dagger with which he had been stabbed
was yet in his heart.

"A proof--have I not given you a proof?" the priest cried again, while
the woman's terrible cry rang through the house, and the three stood
close together, as men upon whom a judgment has fallen.

"Man or devil--who are you?" they asked in hushed whispers.

He answered them by letting his monk's robe slip from his shoulders.
As the robe fell, they beheld a figure clad in crimson velvet and
corselet of burnished gold; the figure of a man whose superb limbs had
been the envy of the swordsmen of Italy; whose face, lighted now with
a sense of power and of victory, was a face for which women had given
their lives.

"It is the Prince of Iseo," they cried, and, saying it, fled from the
house of doom.

At that hour, those whose gondolas were passing the Palazzo Pisani
observed a strange spectacle. A priest stood upon the balcony of the
house holding a silver lamp in his hand; and as he waited, a boat
emerged from the shadows about the church of San Luca and came swiftly
toward him.

"The Signori of the Night," the loiterers exclaimed in hushed
whispers, and went on their way quickly.

* * * * *

Very early next morning, a rumor of strange events, which had happened
in Venice during the hours of darkness, drew a great throng of the
people to the square before the ducal palace.

"Have you not heard it," man cried to man--"the Palazzo Pisani lacks
a mistress to-day? The police make their toilet in the boudoir of my
lady. And they say that the lord of Pisa is dead."

"Worse than that, my friends," a gondolier protested, "Andrea Foscari
crossed to Maestre last night, and the dogs are even now on his

"Your news grows stale," croaked a hag who was passing; "go to the
Piazzetta and you shall see the head of one who prayed before the
altar ten minutes ago."

They trooped off, eager for the spectacle. When they reached the
Piazzetta, the hag was justified. The head of a man lay bleeding upon
the marble slab between the columns. It was the head of the Marquis of

In the palace of the police, meanwhile, Pietro Falier, the Captain,
was busy with his complaints.

"The lord of Pisa is dead," he said, "the woman has gone to the
Convent of Murano; there is a head between the columns; Andrea Foscari
will die of hunger in the hills--yet Gian Mocenigo goes free. Who is
this friar that he shall have the gift of life or death in Venice?"

His subordinate answered--

"This friar, Captain, is one whom Venice, surely, will make the
greatest of her nobles to-day."





"He's just an infernal dude, your lordship, and I'll throw him in the
river if he says a word too much."

"He has already said too much, Tompkins, confound him, don't you

"Then I'm to throw him in whether he says anything or not, sir?"

"Have you seen him?"

"No, your lordship, but James has. James says he wears a red coat

"Never mind, Tompkins. He had no right to fish on this side of that
log. The insufferable ass may own the land on the opposite side, but
confound his impertinence, I own it on this side."

This concluding assertion of the usually placid but now irate Lord
Bazelhurst was not quite as momentous as it sounded. As a matter of

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