Part 8 out of 8
"Well, placed it on the desk in front of him."
"Did you _see_ him?"
"I saw him write a note," I said doggedly. "You can't see a spirit,
you know--its impalpable."
By this time we were deep in the shadow of another doorway across
the street, and Godfrey leaned back against a pillar and mused for a
"Of course," he said at last, "I don't want you to do anything
unprofessional, Lester, but I really think you'd better tell me. You
didn't hesitate to call me in this morning."
"I thought then that somebody was trying to bunco Mrs. Magnus."
"And I think so now," said Godfrey. "Surely you know you can trust
I demurred a while longer, but finally told him the whole story. When
I had ended, he gave a little low whistle of amazement.
"Well," he said, "that's what I call clever. There's a certain
artistic touch about it--only one man--"
He fell silent again, absently gnawing his under lip.
"How long are you going to stay here?" I demanded at last.
"Not long," he answered. "Only until that light goes out over yonder."
He nodded toward one of the upper windows of the Magnus house. Even as
I looked at it, the light disappeared.
"Now," he said, "we'd better be moving up a little closer, Lester.
Around this way, so we can't be seen from the door."
"You mean you think somebody is coming out of that house?"
"Certainly. The ghost's coming out. You didn't expect him to stay
there all night, did you? That would be a little--well--indelicate,
don't you think?"
"How am I going to see him? Well, I think I'll see him all right.
Besides, the money would be visible, wouldn't it? Or does it become
invisible when the ghost puts it in his pocket?"
"The cigar was invisible," I said weakly, "and the pen."
Really, out here with Godfrey, it _did_ seem pretty ridiculous.
I was going to say something more--perhaps to try to excuse myself for
my credulity--but Godfrey silenced me with a gesture. We had crept
along in the shadow of the adjoining building until we were beside the
entrance to the Magnus house.
"Maybe he'll go out the back way," I breathed.
"There isn't any back way. All built up. It's this way, or none."
The thought occurred to me that a brick wall would make no difference
to a spirit, but I felt that I was lapsing into a state of imbecility,
and stood silent, shivering a little. For it had started to drizzle
Then from the direction of the house came the sound of a door softly
closing, and I saw a shadow flit down the steps. It certainly looked
like a ghost; but I heard Godfrey chuckle softly; then, with a bound,
he was upon the figure and had it by the throat. I caught the sound
of a sharp struggle, but it was over before I could collect myself
sufficiently to go to Godfrey's assistance.
When I did get there I found him grimly surveying a small and wizened
creature, whose arm he had linked to his own by means of a handcuff.
"Lester," he said, "allow me to introduce you to the ghost of Peter
Magnus--otherwise Mr. Jemmy Blum, the Tom Thumb of con men. Jemmy," he
added, "aren't you ashamed to be playing such tricks on my friend, Mr.
The small creature's eyes twinkled maliciously as he glanced up at me.
"Ho," he said contemptuously, "'twasn't no trick to fool _him_. But I
didn't know he was _your_ friend. If I had, I'd 'a' let him alone."
I deserved the taunt, of course, but I winced a little at Godfrey's
"You'd fool the devil himself, Jemmy," said his captor. "And now I'll
thank you to pass over to me those five little packets which my friend
here left on that desk up yonder."
Without a word Jemmy unbuttoned his coat and produced the five
packets. I could not but admire the coolness with which he accepted
"Take 'em, Lester," said Godfrey, "and put 'em back in your bag. We'll
leave 'em over at the Tenderloin station, where we'll lodge this
gentleman for the night. No use to disturb Mrs. Magnus till morning,"
he added, with a glance at the gloomy house. "Then we'll have Jemmy
give us a special performance of his impersonation of the ghost of
The prisoner laughed.
"Glad to," he said. "I think you'll find it A one."
"No doubt," assented Godfrey. "As soon as Lester told me the story I
knew you were the only man who could have worked it. And then there
was the desk."
"Of course," agreed the prisoner. "You'd see that."
This was all Greek to me, but I knew the explanation would come in
time. Meanwhile I carefully stowed away the five precious packets in
"Why can't we go over to my rooms at the Marathon and hear the story?"
I suggested. "It's right across the street from the station."
"All right," said Godfrey, and led the way down the street, with Jemmy
keeping step with him as well as his short legs would permit. Five
minutes later we were in my rooms, and I switched on the lights and
got out the cigars.
"If you'll see that the doors are locked, Lester, I'll open this
handcuff temporarily," said Godfrey. "But first," and he ran his hands
over his prisoner's person. "Ah, I thought so," he said, and produced
a small revolver of exquisite workmanship. "You always were a
connoisseur, Jemmy," he added, examining the weapon, and then slipping
it into his own pocket. "All right. Now you sit down over there and be
"Oh, I'll be good," said Jemmy. "I guess I know when I'm crimped.
Thanks," he added, accepting the smoke I offered him.
When the cigars were drawing nicely we were ready to hear the story.
Not until then did I fully realize what a little fellow Jemmy was.
Now I saw that he was almost a dwarf, little if any over four feet in
height, and very slightly built. His face, shrunken and wrinkled, had
that look of prenatural wisdom which dwarfs sometimes have, and his
little black eyes were incredibly bright. He was evidently something
of a dandy, for his clothes were immaculate. I admired again the
aplomb with which he accepted the situation.
"Well," he began, "to make a long story short, I started on this
lay just after old Magnus' death, when a friend of mine in the
fortune-tellin' line told me Mrs. Magnus was a spiritualist."
"A spiritualist?" I queried, in surprise.
"Oh, yes; had been for years. That give me my clue, so I--ah--got into
"How?" demanded Godfrey.
"Bribed a servant, of course," said Godfrey. "We'll look them over in
the morning. Go on."
"I got inside the house, looked over the ground, an' decided on my
line of operation. I wanted something neat an' effective, an' I worked
on it a good while before I had it goin' just right. There were so
many little details. It took a lot of practice--these things do--an'
then I had to remodel the inside of the desk--shorten up the drawers,
an' make room for myself behind them. Luckily I'm little, an' the desk
was one of the biggest I ever saw."
"So you were in the desk?" I asked.
"Sure," he chuckled. "Where else? Lookin' at you out of one of the
pigeon-holes, an' wonderin' if I'd better risk it."
"And you decided you would?"
"Yes," said Jemmy slyly; "I saw you were scart to death, an' I was
afraid if I didn't demonstrate for the old lady, I wouldn't get the
"How did you know she had it?"
"I heard you tell her you'd brought it, down in the parlor."
"Oh," I said; "then it was your step I heard in the hall?"
"I guess so, if you heard one. I just had time to get upstairs an'
make my plant before you came in. The rest was easy."
"But the ashes?" I said.
"Flicked out through a pigeonhole. That's what took practice, to make
'em fall just right. Also the cigar."
"And the odor of tobacco?"
He got a little vial out of his pocket, uncorked it, and again I
caught the sweet and heavy odor of Peter Magnus' cigar.
"An' here's a fine point I'm proud of," said Jemmy. "I had this made
from half a dozen of Magnus' cigars I found in a box in his room. So
the smell was just right. I thought for a while of showin' some smoke,
but didn't dare risk it."
"But the note," I said. "That was the cleverest of all."
Jemmy chuckled and glanced at Godfrey.
"You'll understand that, Jim," he said. "You remember I worked it
backward in that National City Bank case."
"I remember the signature disappeared from old Murgatroyd's check."
"Backward or forward, it don't make no difference. It all depends on
"Ah," chuckled Jemmy, "you'd like to know, wouldn't you? You never
will. But it all depends on it. If I put the acid in before the salt,
the writin' disappears at the end of two hours; if I put the salt in
before the acid, the writin' don't appear for the same length of time.
It took me five years to work it out."
"But the writing didn't all appear at once," I objected.
"Of course not," said Jemmy impatiently. "It wasn't all wrote at once,
was it? It appeared just like it was wrote."
"How could you time it?"
"Why," answered Jemmy still more impatiently, "I began operations
at the same time every night, didn't I? I timed the writin' for
"But the chair?" I persisted.
Jemmy shot a disgusted glance at Godfrey.
"Any faker on Sixth Avenue can do that," he said. "A hook on a thread.
"Yes," I said, "one thing. What horror did you perpetrate last night?"
Jemmy grinned mechanically as he looked at me, and I even fancied he
reddened a little.
"Did she tell you about that?" he asked.
"She tried to, but couldn't. What was it?"
"Well, you know," said Jemmy apologetically, "I had to bring matters
to a head some way, for the old girl certainly did hate to shell out.
I was sorry to have to scare her, but I couldn't help it."
"But what did you do?"
Jemmy blew a ring, and watched it fade away in front of him.
"I don't think I'll tell," he said at last.
Godfrey had been listening with an amused smile.
"We'll get that detail from Mrs. Magnus," he said. "Accept my
compliments, Jemmy. It was cleverly done. I'm almost sorry you didn't
get away with it."
"Oh," answered Jemmy, with studied indifference, "that's all in the
day's work, you know. But thank you all the same, Jim."
He was flicking the ashes from the end of his cigar as he spoke, and I
saw that he didn't meet Godfrey's eyes.
The latter looked at him an instant; then, with a low exclamation,
sprang to his feet, and snapped open the bag in which I had stowed the
packets Jemmy had given me. He ripped one of them open, and disclosed,
not ten thousand dollars in currency, but a neat bundle of blank
Jemmy was looking at him now, and his face was alight with triumph.
"How did you know I was there?" Godfrey demanded.
"I didn't," grinned Jemmy. "But I wasn't takin' any chances."
"Who was your pal?"
"That's tellin'," answered Jemmy easily.
"Did you see any of the servants, Lester?"
"Only one," I said. "I didn't notice anything about her, except that
she was rather good-looking, and--oh, yes--the little finger of her
left hand was missing."
Godfrey grabbed the telephone, and I heard him call headquarters, and
give terse orders to send a detail at once to the Magnus house, to
watch all ferries and trains, and to search all the thieves' haunts
in the city for Kate Travis--"Lady" Kate. Headquarters seemed to know
perfectly whom he meant.
"You won't get her," said Jemmy calmly, as Godfrey hung up the
receiver. "She got away as soon as we turned the corner. She's got a
good half hour's start."
"Come along," said Godfrey roughly, and snapped the handcuffs on
again. I could see that he was deeply chagrined. "Good night, Lester.
I've made a botch of this thing. I've got to catch that woman."
But he hasn't caught her yet, and I suppose, when Jemmy finishes his
term, he will find his share of that fifty thousand dollars waiting
I hope so, anyway.
THE EPISODE OF THE BLACK CASQUETTE
BY JOSEPH ERNEST
Yes, I have encountered him at last, the veritable birdman! Almost I
had commenced to believe that such an individual did not in effect
exist--with the exception, _bien entendu_, of myself. For, as I told
them when they offered me a _vin d'honneur_ on the occasion of my
decoration with the Cross of the Legion, the recognition was long
overdue. Indeed, I assured them, the only circumstance that prevented
me from flying at the age of three was the fact that messieurs the
inventors had not then produced an aeroplane.
But now I have encountered, as I say, another such instinctive aviator
to whom flight appears to be as natural as walking. And thou seest
by my bandages, my poor friend, what it is that has in consequence
arrived to me!
Unhappy meeting! It is with pain and difficulty still that I lift an
arm. I can no more, since my accident, illustrate my remarks
with appropriate gesture. Forgive, therefore, _mon ami_, a story
inadequately picturesque, vivid, _mouvant._ And yet--we have brought
each other fortune, this young Monsieur Power and I. Fix a little the
pillows up, and you shall hear.
A man-eagle, I assure you! A veritable condor of the Andes hatched
in human shape, who has, nevertheless, discovered his gift only to
renounce it at once and forever.
Our first meeting was curiously disturbing. He appeared suddenly at a
door of my ateliers on the flying ground at Mineola, very tall, very
_soigne_, smiling in the way he had that showed all his strong,
square teeth as he recognized me in conversation, with my faithful
mechanician, Georges. This latter, grown portly and nervous since
marrying a Montmartre shopkeeper, I have since promoted to be my chief
"Pardon the intrusion," said the stranger. "I perceive you are about
to murder the stout gentleman. I will wait your convenience."
"Quite on the contrary, monsieur," I explained, bowing. "We discuss
merely the theory of the explosion turbine. If monsieur will give
himself the trouble to enter--"
"That is my card," he replied, advancing. "I want a strong, swift
biplane, and a mechanic to attend to it."
I glanced from the card to this extraordinary young man with interest.
For the name itself, John Hamlin Power, told me of a career in Wall
Street--brief, but conspicuous in its daring and success; a career in
which this immaculate, smiling young cotillion leader had made the
very monarchs of finance fear the elan of his attack, the relentless
quality of his grip.
"I have taken a fancy," he went on, "to possess the identical machine
with which you accomplished your recent Mount McKinley record. It is
perhaps for sale?"
"Perfectly, if monsieur wishes," I responded, with another bow. "But
it is a machine of unusual speed and power. Monsieur can already fly,
"I do not anticipate any difficulty. As a matter of fact, I have not
yet attempted it. It is for that purpose that I have come to buy a
machine. It would be a favor if you would arrange to deliver it to me
in Westchester to-morrow. The mechanic will, of course, arrive at the
same time, as I shall wish to commence practice at once."
He turned aside to inspect a motor that lay dismounted on a wooden
stand, as if there were nothing further to discuss. Indeed, though
his speech was rapid and incisive, and his every movement full of an
_allure_ that spoke of splendidly poised muscles, he was in face and
manner alike the most singularly immobile man I had ever met. He gave
the impression of employing neither words nor actions except in case
of clear necessity.
I exchanged glances with Georges, who had turned up his eyes, spread
his arms, and allowed them to fall again limply to his sides. I
coughed. Monsieur Power drew himself up from his inspection of the
motor and smiled again expectantly.
"But the question of tuition?" I stammered. "Monsieur has no doubt
arranged for the services of an instructor?"
There was the slightest twinkle in that steadfast gaze of his. He had
the bravest, and yet the tenderest, eyes in the world.
"I'm afraid I have not sufficient time for the regular course,"
he said. "I am a rather busy man, as you possibly know. I have
consequently taken lessons in advance, by mail. May I expect the
machine to-morrow as arranged?"
I murmured something to the effect that he had perhaps underestimated
the difficulties of aviation.
"Are they not exaggerated?" he inquired. "You taught my friend, Miss
Hamilton Warren, to fly, did you not?"
"Mademoiselle, it is true, flies here almost daily," I admitted.
"Just so! It does not seem to me that there can be anything very
difficult in what a girl can do. However, if you will be so good as to
deliver the biplane we will see."
Under that clear, steady gaze of his I was powerless to protest.
Behind him I could see the good Georges struggling palpably for
breath, and waving his hands to the rafters. I contented myself with
a profound bow; whereupon, with the same quick, alert movement with
which he had appeared, this strange young man departed. Georges and I
fell gasping upon each others' necks, and stared together after his
tall, receding figure.
"Without doubt he is mad, this Monsieur Power," I said at last. "You
remember that he has just made two millions in a bear raid. Doubtless
it has turned his brain. Name of a name! He pretends to have taken
flying lessons from an institute of correspondence, and I have
promised him a biplane of one hundred horse power! Georges, _mon ami_,
you must yourself accompany it and give him counsel lest he break his
Not satisfied with this precaution, I myself flew the biplane over
to Westchester on the morrow, and explained the controls to Monsieur
Power in an extended passenger flight. He was, it appeared, an amateur
of the balloon, and accustomed to great heights. When I handed the
machine over to him, with the engine throttled down so that he might
try rolling practice on the ground, he waited until he was out of our
reach, whipped the motor into its full power, heaved himself into the
air, and flew back the whole length of his grounds--alighting gently
as a falling leaf.
"It seems pretty simple," he said, as he swung himself out of the
nacelle. "I do not think I need detain you, Monsieur Lacroix, if your
assistant Georges will be good enough to consider himself my guest,
and keep the motor running."
It was in vain that I besought him to have patience. He replied only
that his time was limited, and that he had given the subject careful
study in theory.
And with that assurance I had to depart, little content. First,
however, I warned him of one or two pitfalls--as, for instance,
that he must never stop his engine in an emergency, as one does
instinctively in an auto, because the greater the danger the more need
he would have of motive power to get him out of it. Also, I told him
not to fly above trees or water, where the currents would suck him
downward, but to steer over the darkest patches of land, where the
heat of the sun is absorbed, and the air in consequence rises.
In what state of emotion I was maintained by the letters of Georges
during the ensuing fortnight, I will make you judge.
"_A moi_!" he writes to me in the first week. "I am in the clutch of a
madman! Each morning I am awakened at six, that I may plunge with him
in the lake of cold water attached to the mansion, he having first
made _la boxe_ noisily with a fist ball on the floor directly above.
To-day in his machine he has described figures of eight in the space
of his grounds even, banking the planes at an inclination _affreuse_!"
Again he writes: "I am now to accompany him on a cross-country raid.
Farewell to my wife and little one. I will die like a Montmartrois for
the honor of France!"
Finally an appeal--urgent, pitiful, telegraphic:
"Take me away, _je t'en prie!_ This maniac wishes now to discuss the
possibility of a somersault in the air. I can no more--Georges."
Thereupon I replaced him with another mechanic, and he returned,
appearing worn and noticeably thinner.
"It seems to me, _tout de meme_," I remarked, "that this young
monsieur knows very well what he is about. We have not been asked to
repair a single stick of his machine."
"True," replied Georges. "But that is not his ambition, to break wood.
It was his neck that he wished to break, and incidentally my own.
Wait, my friend, until you have seen him fly. I, who speak to you,
have faced death daily these weeks past, and my clothes hang loose
And I was fated to see this monsieur, also, before very long, on the
occasion of his dramatic appearance upon the grounds of my flying
school. I must explain that Mineola had become a social institution,
for already I taught the younger members of the rich sportsman set
the new diversion that science had placed within their reach. Crowds
assembled each fine day to witness the first flutterings or the
finished flights of their friends.
On this occasion the lawn before the hangars was bright with flowers
and gay with the costumes of pretty women, in deference to whom I had
even permitted what the society reporters began to call "aviation
teas," placing little tables about the grass, where the chatter was
not too much interrupted by the vicious rattle and the driving smoke
of motors under test. I did this the more readily as it prevented
the uninstructed from wandering into the path of the machines, which
buzzed about the grounds like crippled beetles trying to rise into the
The grounds, particularly in expectation of a flight by Miss Warren,
bore very much in consequence the appearance of a garden party, and
I looked with pride upon a scene such as only the historic flying
schools of my dear France had hitherto witnessed.
It was with a start that I recognized, while gazing upon this throng
of flower-like women and gallant young men, the figure so tall, so
commanding of the aged Monsieur Warren himself. I knew that he did
not belong to this plutocratic young sporting set, of which he even
disapproved. Moreover, the old financier had never before condescended
to recognize the prowess of his daughter as an aviator. Indeed, I
understood that the least reference to it had been forbidden in his
presence. I hastened forward to welcome him, with joy in this new and
powerful convert to the science of flight, and together we watched
the preparation of Miss Warren's great French biplane, her beautiful
_Cygne_, which she had insisted upon bringing with her from Paris.
Ah, _mon vieux_, I cannot describe to you the emotion that seized me
as she advanced from the hangars, this beautiful girl, to mount her
great white bird! The Comte de Chalons, who had followed her from
Europe, and rarely left her side, hurried after her with her leather
flying gauntlets--for while it was warm on the ground, there came from
aloft reports of a chilling wind. I saw the tall, bent old man, her
father, gaze with eyes moist with pride and affection on that superb
figure of young womanhood as she swung gracefully out toward the
gallant machine that awaited her in the sunlight, chatting gayly with
her companion as she walked. She wore a thick-knitted jersey of brown
silk, a simple brown skirt, and leather gaiters, and a brown leather
automobile cap covered her shining, dark hair. Like a slim, brown
statue she stood at last on the step of her biplane in the breeze, and
I saw the Comte de Chalons bend over her hand as he assisted her into
Well, he had reason, that one! She is a better flier than I can ever
make out of him.
A run of fifty yards, and she was aloft with the practiced leap of the
expert pilot. The next minute she was breasting the breeze far above
our heads, the rear edges of the huge planes quivering transparent
against the sky, her motor roaring impetuously. As she passed, I had a
single glimpse of her face--bathed in full sunlight, radiant, joyous!
I looked then with curiosity upon the aged Monsieur Warren. The great
financier leaned upon his cane, and I saw that the hand that held it
was blue and trembling. As he gazed skyward, his breath came deeply as
in a sob.
"Ah, monsieur," I thought, with a surge of pride, "it is I, Lacroix,
who have enabled you to enjoy a parallel triumph. She is your daughter
whom they applaud, truly--but she is also my pupil!"
Figure to yourself my surprise, therefore, when he turned to me
suddenly in appeal, and, with a hand that trembled on my arm, besought
me to take him away.
"I cannot stand it, my dear Lacroix--it isn't safe!" he said, in a low
He repeated these words several times, his lip quivering like that
of a child who suffers, as I led him into the drawing office of the
ateliers. There he seated himself, bent and gray, upon the edge of an
"It's no use, I can't stand it," he said again. "I assure you that I
could see the thing shaking, as it passed overhead, in every stick
and wire of it. It can't be safe! And there she is, five hundred feet
high, with her life hanging on a thread."
"I assure you also, monsieur," I protested, "that I have this very
morning examined every nut and bolt, every brace and valve and stay in
the entire _appareil_. Never have I permitted your daughter to ascend
without such an inspection. I would stake my life upon the perfect
integrity of the machine."
He smiled, a little querulously.
"You are accustomed to stake your life, Monsieur Lacroix. As for me, I
am an old man. The old are obstinate and selfish. I abhor the entire
Plaudits came from the gay crowd outside as mademoiselle's machine
again roared above the hangars. The old man shook his massive head.
"Of course, you don't see it as I do," he went on. "If you had
considered risks, you would have accomplished nothing. It is natural
that you should think only of the glory and conquest of flight. But I
think of the little girl I held on my knee the night her mother died,
and I can neither stay away in peace when Ella flies, nor can I bear
to watch her."
"But you are powerful, Monsieur Warren," I said, "a commander of the
captains of finance. If you said even that a country should not
make war, its cannon would rust in the parks, and its soldiers play
leapfrog in the casernes. Surely you can bend the will of a young girl
who is also your daughter?"
The old man's smile became grim.
"I may be all that you say," he sighed. "But, nevertheless, if you
chose to wring my neck at this moment, I could do little to prevent
you. Neither dare I stand between an American girl and the desire of
I looked with sympathy upon this gaunt, mighty, old warrior of Wall
Street, bent under the shadow of apprehension and anxiety, and I
knew why he had at last visited Mineola. And as I looked, I, too, my
friend, saw clearly for the first time the reverse of the bright medal
of aerial conquest. I saw the graves of lost comrades, I saw the homes
in mourning, I saw mothers who wept for their bravest boys. Truly the
price was heavy, and I knew in my heart that it had not been paid in
"Monsieur knows," I said, "that I was once a poor mechanician. What I
am now, flight has made me, and I have worked for the glory of flight.
But now I perceive that in encouraging mademoiselle your daughter to
fly, I have perhaps done wrong. I promise you that in future I will do
my best to dissuade her."
He rose, and pressed my hand in gratitude.
"I am wealthy," he said. "I am rich beyond dreams. I can buy anything
for my little girl that she desires--except a single moment's safety
up in the air, or a single moment's true happiness on the earth. And
in pursuit of this flying craze of hers, she may easily miss both."
He frowned suddenly as we emerged into the sunlight and saw the Comte
de Chalons hasten to assist mademoiselle to dismount. Above the
hangars the red storm cone had been hoisted, prohibiting further
flight by pupils. Already the treetops were swaying ominously.
"After all, there are some things that can happen to a girl," said
Monsieur Warren bitterly, "that may well be worse than breaking her
neck in an aeroplane."
He departed in search of his automobile without another word. But I
thought I knew what he meant.
It was at this moment that I first saw him fly, this marvelous birdman
of a Hamlin Power. Away in the direction of New York, so high that
he seemed to hang motionless just under the driving clouds, the
spectators had caught sight of his huge biplane, and had delayed their
departure to watch his approach. It was Georges, dancing on the grass
beside me, who first proclaimed his identity.
"It is he, the crazy pupil!" he cried. "I have seen through my glass
the little silk flag he attached to the nacelle. Now you are going to
marvel that I still live!"
In a few moments the sound of his motor fell faintly on our ears as a
whisper from the clouds. Then--_chut_!--it stopped, and in a single
leap he dived a sheer thousand feet.
That in itself was amazing temerity for one who had flown just long
enough to justify him in piloting an aero bus in a dead calm. But
I was little prepared for what followed. Instead of continuing his
flight horizontally at the end of that headlong dive, this tyro pulled
up his elevator, sweeping through a sharp curve into an upward leap
with all the dizzy impetus gained in his descent.
The crowd gasped. At my side Georges danced with anxiety upon the
"You are right," I said. "He is certainly crazy, this young Monsieur
"He calls it the _montagnes russes_, this trick," said Georges. "I
have told him that everybody who ever did it is long dead, with the
single exception of yourself, but that to him is entirely equal. See,
he has dived again only just in time!"
And, in truth, another moment of upward flight would infallibly have
caused him to lose headway, and fall backward, to flatten himself upon
the ground. But he had with superb coolness entered upon a second dive
of the most impressive, continuing his species of switchback descent
until within a few hundred feet of the hangars. I saw his head
protruding from the nacelle, incased in a flying helmet of perfectly
black leather. At that height the _remous_ and gusts hit him at
unexpected angles, and his machine rose and fell and rocked, as if
upon the waves of an invisible ocean. It was buffeted about until I
knew that he could not be on his seat half the time. First one wing
tip and then the other was blown upward, threatening irrevocable side
slip, but always at the last moment his instinct--for it could have
been nothing else--saved him in masterly fashion.
At one moment, indeed, as he banked high to turn down wind, it seemed
that he was lost, and a woman in front of me turned away with a little
cry of horror, her hands before her eyes.
But no! Blown like a leaf straight toward us, he wheeled again into
the teeth of the wind at the same astonishing angle, finally landing
neatly in front of the hangars. It was with an exclamation of relief
that I saw him leap from his machine safe and sound.
With a number of mechanicians, I ran to greet him, and he held out a
gloved hand, smiling in boyish delight and complete unconcern, and
showing all his square, white teeth. I burst at once into protests.
"Bunk!" he exclaimed, with an irreverent laugh. "You fellows make a
voodoo mystery of flight because it pays you. There's nothing very
difficult about it, after all. One has only to keep cool."
I was going to reply with I know not what appeal to his reason, when
the clear, contralto voice of Miss Warren came suddenly from behind
me. She hastened to meet him, holding out both her hands.
"Jack, this is good of you!" she cried. "It's just your generous
way--you couldn't possibly have forgiven me more gracefully. To
think that you, of all people, should be the mysterious airman of
Westchester who has set every one talking and wondering! Why, it was
the pleasantest surprise in life to see you get down from that machine
after such a wonderful flight. And my father has been here to-day,
also. Two such converts in one afternoon is a coincidence that seems
too good to be true."
The young Monsieur Power was regarding her, I noticed, with a sort of
"Maybe there's something in that," he said. "You mustn't get the idea
that I've altered my ground in the least, Ella."
"But you are flying yourself, now!"
"Certainly, but that doesn't mean that I approve of it as an amusement
"When did you begin?"
"Last month, when I bought the machine. Since then I've been
practicing around home."
The girl started from him in amazement.
"Last month! Why, don't you know you might have killed yourself,
cutting capers on a day like this?"
"Precisely what I have allowed myself to point out to monsieur," I
interposed. "He attempted feats full of danger even for the expert."
"Well, I guess that's all right," he responded shortly. "A man's life
wasn't given to him to nurse. Besides, flying is a great relief after
a week in the city."
I turned aside, then, to superintend the disposal of the aeroplanes in
their sheds, as it had become evident that a gale was in prospect. It
was some minutes later that I received a sudden intimation from Miss
Warren that she desired my presence outside her hangar.
"Mademoiselle wishes you to denounce the young American monsieur,"
added on his own account the mechanic who brought the message.
I found her confronting Monsieur Power, who was leaning in an attitude
characteristically immobile against the landing carriage of his
machine. The Comte de Chalons stood on one side, pulling at his
mustache and staring from one to the other. Monsieur Power chewed a
grass stem and smiled in a fashion a little _narquois_.
"Why not give in, Ella, and admit you have been in the wrong? You know
you'll have to come to it, sooner or later."
He spoke quite pleasantly, but the girl's magnificent dark eyes were
blazing with suppressed anger.
Give in! A thing unheard! She had never suffered compulsion in a young
lifetime of following her own sweet way, this dollar princess. As
they gazed upon each other, I could see a titanic battle of wills in
progress beneath the outward calm of the discussion.
"You would not be so foolhardy, Jack," she said, controlling her voice
with an effort. "You know, or at least if you don't know, Monsieur
Lacroix and everybody else does, that you couldn't live two minutes in
"Monsieur Power, you are annoying mademoiselle in a grave degree,"
broke in the count, suddenly glaring. "My friends will lose no time in
waiting on you."
The American swung round with one of those rapid, definite movements
so habitual with him.
"Don't trouble your friends," he replied. "We can do without them.
Come up and fly with me right away. We'll toss a quarter to decide who
"It would be madness!" exclaimed the count, and his jaw dropped.
"Then kindly mind your own business," said Monsieur Power, chewing
again on his grass stem, and talking through his teeth. "Now, Ella,
time's up! Am I to go?"
The girl bit her lip, and seemed to struggle vainly for a reply, but
the look in her eyes would have withered any man less accustomed to
strife than this iron-jawed young soldier of fortune from Wall Street.
In my turn, anger seized me as I saw her hesitate.
"You will pardon a further interruption, monsieur," I cried. "I can
permit no such madness on my flying ground, and no such discourtesy to
I beckoned the head mechanician.
"You will at once remove to a hangar the biplane of Monsieur Power," I
told him, "and disconnect the ignition. Should he attempt to enter the
nacelle again, you will cause him to evacuate it in march time and
"And the first dago that tries it will get hurt," added Monsieur Power
"It's cowardly, Jack!" she cried hotly. "It's unworthy of you, a
childish bluff like this!"
He must have been planning all the time how he would spring into his
seat and start the motor, for when I looked round he was already
there, and the great tractor screw was spinning as the exhaust
spluttered viciously, making it impossible to reach him except from
behind. With all my legs I ran round to the tail, calling upon the
mechanicians to aid me.
Too late! The exhaust ripped out as he whipped his motor into her full
horse power, and he leaped into the teeth of the wind with a swerve
that almost tore off his lower plane against the ground.
"Imbecile!" I roared, but he no longer heard me. To save myself from
a violent collision with his tail planes I was compelled to cling
desperately to the frail wood and wire girder of the fuselage, and
it was in this position that I was carried the length of the flying
ground. The gale tore at my hair and distended my cheeks, the turf
slipped away beneath me as smooth as green water in the speed of his
mad attempt to force the machine into the air.
Slowly and with extreme care I edged my way inch by inch along the
fuselage toward the main planes and the pilot's seat. Casting back a
glance I saw the hangars, a mere white bar across the plain. A few
spectators who had pursued us in a desultory, ineffectual manner stood
now at long intervals in our wake, and gesticulated spasmodically.
The next moment we ran into a hollow, and they were lost to view
behind the grassy slope.
It was then that the young American looked behind him for the first
time, and realized that he had a passenger. Promptly he throttled down
his engine into a slow splutter, and turned in his seat as the machine
came to a standstill.
"I suppose you've had an uncomfortable minute or two," he grinned.
"But it really wasn't your affair. I am perfectly entitled to fly
whenever I feel like it."
Pleading that the roar of the motor had deafened me, I climbed up onto
the passenger seat.
"It is beyond doubt, monsieur, that you are sane," I said. "But it is
equally certain that you propose the act of a madman. Fortunately I
have accompanied you, and it is impossible to rise from the ground
with my weight on the tail, and my grip upon the elevator wires."
"Meaning that you refuse to let me ascend?"
"But why?" he demanded. "Do you want Miss Warren to think that I was
only bluffing, after all? I promised to show her something startling,
and I'm going ahead with it."
"To begin with, it would be suicide," I rejoined. "In addition, you
would be inflicting gratuitous distress upon mademoiselle."
At this he rose from his seat with the first sign of emotion I had
seen in his manner.
"And what is it that she has inflicted for months on me?" he demanded
hotly. "And on her father, too, and on all her friends? We can't pick
up a newspaper any day, without going cold with fear that we will read
of her maimed or dead in some accident. After all, it's only her own
He took off the black leather helmet, placed it on the seat, and wiped
the motor grease from his brow. When he spoke again, it was in the
even tones of a man who issues an ultimatum against an intolerable
"There has been altogether too much of this flying business. It's no
game for a girl. There is getting to be too much of this count thing.
We don't want his sort around here. I've known Ella Warren since she
was as big as a glass of milk! Do you think I am going to stand down
for the first scented dago--forgive me if I speak disrespectfully of
your countryman--whom she chooses to bring across the Atlantic at her
heels? No, sir! It has to be stopped somewhere."
He halted a moment, and regarded me carefully. I could see that he was
measuring with his eye the distance between us.
"I'm going to scare her stiff," he said, nodding. "Get down off this
plane, Monsieur Lacroix!"
"Pardon me," I replied, with a low bow. "But that is for you to do."
And before he could seize me, with one blow of the foot planted
suddenly in his chest I shot the young Monsieur Power squarely off his
biplane onto the grass. Even as he measured his long length on the
ground, I had seized the controls, and the aeroplane spurted fifty
yards ahead of him. Ever since he had removed the black casquette, a
wild idea, of a dramatic quality irresistible, had formed itself in my
brain. I now seized the helmet and thrust it down upon my own head.
"It shall be finished as you wish," I cried. "But it is I, Lacroix,
who am best qualified for the task!"
For I had seen, during that wild flight over the ground as I clung to
the frail framework of the tail, a figure that I loved--a figure in
brown, tall and graceful before the white hangars, a figure that
clasped its hands in terror. And some instinct told me that the life
of this Monsieur Power was necessary to the happiness of my beloved
mademoiselle. I knew also that I alone without undue risk might break
down the barrier of iron pride that had arisen between these two
autocratic young people.
_Qu'est-ce que tu veux que je te dise?_ I might have paid more heavily
for the mad intoxication of that last flight. In a month or two I
shall be again aloft.
I have often maintained that sooner or later a moment of emotion, of
sheer joy in the struggle and risk, will cause the soberest pilot to
throw discretion to the winds. It was so in this case.
_Parbleu!_ I leap, I dive, I twist in figures of eight, I fight my
way by inches against the wind, and, turning, I shoot back upon its
current with the speed of a projectile. I am shaken and buffeted until
I gasp for breath. I swerve, I dance, I caracole--I pirouette on a
wing tip, catching my side slips on the rudder as one plays cup and
ball. I dangle myself at the end of a single wire on the brink of
eternity, crying defiance to the winds! _C'etait de la folie_--the
madness of battle. Far below me I could see an occasional spectator
running like a rabbit, grotesquely waving his arms.
"Oh, yes, he is doubtless clever, this Power," I cry in my pride. "But
he is, after all, nothing but a buzzard. It is I, Lacroix, who am
alone veritable king of the air!"
_Coquin de sort!_ I do not know exactly when the wire controlling the
right _aileron_ parted. I became aware merely that that side of the
machine canted downward and refused to rise again in response to the
lever. Like a flash, I thrust forward the elevator, hoping to reach
the earth by a glide. But I arrived by a quicker maneuver--a whirling
gust, a _tourbillon_ of the most terrific, hurled the biplane sidelong
The man who has been accustomed to face death meets it at last with a
gentle sneer on his lip, as one who is vanquished by an enemy whom he
knows to be in reality his inferior.
"So here he is at last, then, this Death," I said to myself. "Well,
let us see what he will do!"
And in that instant the graceful biplane crashed into splinters, and I
lay pinned in the wreckage beneath a shroud of torn white canvas. In
the black casquette, later, they discovered a hole two inches wide,
torn by the jagged edge of a broken stay.
I found them at my bedside when I awoke some days later, my
Mademoiselle Warren and Monsieur Power. They leaned together, arm in
arm, upon the rail at the foot, and the lovely face of my dear pupil
was radiant with sympathy and happiness.
"Ha! What is it that it is, then?" I demand.
"Mr. Power won," said Miss Warren.
The young broker smiled with all his teeth.
"But he was unfairly abetted by a certain Monsieur Lacroix," went on
Miss Warren. "That was a terrible practical joke you played on me with
the black casquette, you know. They carried us away in the same auto,
and they tell me that I looked as lifeless as you."
"And now I have lost my pupil!" I exclaimed ruefully.
"Dear Monsieur Lacroix, I had no choice," she responded, and moved to
the bedside and held my hand. "I cannot oppose the wishes of all the
people I love. Besides, it is a fair bargain. We have promised each
other, Mr. Power and I, never to fly again."
"It is in one way a pity," I murmured. "For monsieur is without
doubt a species of born birdman. But any one would make a parallel
renunciation to stand in his shoes."
"You are dangerously romantic, Monsieur Jules," said mademoiselle. "If
it were not your supreme virtue, it would be your principal fault."
"Too true, mademoiselle," I replied. "But it cannot be denied that I
am at the same time a very pretty flier."
It was not until some time after they had departed that I found upon
the table among my medicines two envelopes. One, small and dainty, was
a formal announcement of the fiancailles of Miss Warren and the
young Monsieur Power. The other, long and of an official shape,
contained--ah, what do you guess?
It was a draft of the incorporation of a company to control my flying
schools, and realize my dream of the all-steel monoplane of stability
positively automatic. At the head I read the names of Messieurs Warren
and Power as guarantors. There remain only blank spaces requiring my
_Bien alors_! In a few days more I shall be able to hold a pen!
BY MARJORIE L.C. PICKTHALL
Ransome said that you might pick up specimens of all the unprettiest
afflictions of body and soul in Herares ten years ago. He also said
that when he saw any particularly miserable bit of human wreckage,
white or brown, adrift on the languid tides of life about the jetty,
he always said without further inquiry, "It's Henkel's house you're
looking for. Turn to the left, and keep on turning to the left. And if
God knew what went on under these trees. He'd have mercy on you."
The house was the last house on the last road of the town. You don't
find it now, for no one would live in it after Henkel; and in a season
or two the forest had swamped it as the sea swamps a child's boat on
the beach. It was a white house in a garden, and after rain the scent
of vanilla and stephanotis rose round it like a fog. The fever rose
round it like a fog, too, and that's why Henkel got it so cheap.
No fever touched him. He lived there alone with a lot of
servants--Indians. And they were all wrecks, Ransome said, broken down
from accident or disease--wrecks that no one else would employ. He got
them very cheap. When they died he got more.
Henkel was a large, soft, yellowish man. Ransome said, "I don't mind
a man being large and yellowish, or even soft in reason; but when
he shines, too, I draw the line." Henkel had thick hands with bent
fingers, and large, brown eyes. He was a Hollander, and in that place
he stood apart. For he didn't drink, or gamble, or fight, or even buy
rubber. He was just a large, peaceful person who bought things cheap.
He was very clever. He always knew the precise moment, the outmost
low-water mark, of a bargain. His house was full of things he'd bought
cheap from wrecked companies or dying men, from the mahogany logs in
the patio to the coils of telegraph wire in the loft. His clothes
never fitted him, for they belonged to men whom the fever had met on
the way up the Mazzaron, and who had therefore no further use for
clothes. The only things for which Henkel ever paid a fair price were
"I went to his house once," said Ransome--"had to. A lame Indian in
a suit of gaudy red-and-white stripes opened the door. I knew that
striped canvas. It was the awnings of the old _Lily Grant_, and I saw
along the seams the smoke-marks of the fire that had burnt her innards
out.... Then the Indian opened the jalousies with a hand like a bundle
of brown twigs, and the light shone through green leaves on the walls
of the room. From ceiling to floor they flashed as if they were
jeweled, only there are no jewels with just that soft bloom of color.
They were the cases full of Henkel's butterflies.
"The Indian limped out and Henkel came in. He was limping, too. I
looked at his feet and I saw that they were in a pair of some one
else's tan shoes. That and a whiff from the servants' quarters made
me feel a bit sick. I wanted to say what I had to say and get out as
quick as I could. But Henkel would show me his butterflies. Most of us
in that place were a little mad on some point. I was, myself. Henkel
was mad on the subject of his butterflies. He told me the troubles
he'd had getting them from Indians and negroes, and how his men
cheated him. He took it very much to heart, and snuffled as he spoke.
'And there's one I haven't got,' he said, 'one I've heard of but can't
find, and my lazy hounds of _hombres_ can't find it either, it seems.
It's one of the clearwings--transparent. Here's a transparent silver
one. But this new one is gold, transparent gold, and the spots are
opaque gold.' His mouth fairly watered. 'I tell you, I will spend
anything, pay anything, to get that gold butterfly. And if the natives
can't or won't find it for me, my friend, I'll send for some one who
can and will.'
"I quite believed him, though I was no friend of his. I didn't know
much about butterflies, but I guessed that in Paris or London his
collection would be beyond price. But I wasn't prepared, two months
later, for Scott and his friend.
"Derek Scott. Ever meet him? A very ordinary kind of young Northerner.
He was remarkable only in having everything a little in excess of his
type--a little squarer in jaw and shoulder, a little longer in nose
and leg, a little keener of eye and slower of tongue. I'd never have
looked at him twice, as he landed from the dirty steamer with a lot of
tin boxes, if it hadn't been that he was hale and sound, with hope in
his eyes. Health and hope, at Herares!
"Then little Daurillac ran up the gangway, laughing. I looked at
him--every one did--and wondered. And then, to cap the wonder, the two
came up to me with their friendly, confident young faces, and asked
for Henkel's house.
"'Turn to the left,' I said. And then I added, 'You'll excuse me, but
what does Henkel want of you?'
"Scott didn't answer at first, but looked me over with his considering
eyes, and I remembered a collarless shirt and a four days' beard.
But Daurillac said, 'He wants butterflies of us, Monsieur. I am an
entomologist, and my friend he assists me.' He drew up very straight,
but his eyes were laughing at himself. Then we exchanged names and
shook hands, and I watched them going along the path to Henkel's.
"Next day Scott came down to the jetty. He sat on a stump and stared
at everything. He was ready enough to talk, in his guarded way. Yes,
he was new to the tropics; in some ways they were not what he had
expected, but he was not disappointed. He was here for the novelty,
the experience. But his friend, Louis Daurillac, had been in the
Indies, and with some of Meyer's men in Burma after orchids. Louis's
father was a great naturalist, and Louis was very clever. Yes, Henkel
had got hold of him through Meyer. He wanted some one to find this
butterfly for him--this golden butterfly at the headwaters of the
Mazzaron--some one whose name was yet in the making, some one he could
get cheap.... So Louis had come. He was very keen on it. Henkel was to
bear all costs, to supply food, ammunition, trade-goods, etc., and pay
them according to the number of the new specimens that they found. 'So
you see,' said Scott, with his clean smile, 'Louis and I can't lose by
"We talked a bit more, and then young Scott said to me, suddenly:
'Henkel has everything ready, and we start in the morning. You seem to
be the only white man about here. Come and see us off, will you?' I
said yes; afterward it struck me as curious that he should not have
counted Henkel as a white man. He laughed and apologized for the touch
of sentiment. 'It's like plunging head first into a very deep sea,'
he explained, 'and one likes to have some one on the shore. You'll be
here when we come back?' And I said yes, I'd be either unloading on
the jetty or in the new cemetery by the canal. But he didn't smile.
His light Northern eyes were gravely considering this land where life
was held on a short lease, and he looked at me as if he were sorry for
"I saw them off the next day. There were six or eight men of Henkel's,
loaded with food and trade-goods, and I saw that two of them were
sickening where they stood. I looked in Daurillac's brilliant young
face, and I hadn't the courage to say anything but, 'Have you plenty
of quinine?' He tapped a big tin case, and I nodded. 'And what are you
taking for the Indies?' I asked.
"He fairly bubbled over with laughter. 'You would never guess,
Monsieur, but we take clocks, little American clocks. The Indies of
the Mazzaron desire nothing but little clocks; they like the tick.'
"Their men had turned down one of the jungle paths. They shook hands
with me, and Scott met my eyes with his grave smile. 'Just drawing
breath for the plunge,' he said, with a glance at the forest beyond
the last white roof. Daurillac slipped his arm through Scott's, and
drew him after their slow-going _hombres_. At the bend of the path
they turned and waved to me--Scott with a quick lift of the hand. But
little Daurillac swept off his hat and stood half turned for a minute;
the sun splashed on his dark head, on his Frenchified belt and
puttees, on his white breeches, and on an outrageous pink shirt Henkel
seemed to have supplied him with. He looked suddenly brilliant and
unsubstantial, a light figure poised on the edge of the dark.... One
gets curious notions in Herares. The next moment they were gone. The
jungle had shut down on them, swallowed them up. They were instantly
lost in it as a bubble is lost in the sea.
"Two days before I hadn't known of their existence. But I was there to
see them off, and I was there when Scott came back.
"It was well on into the rainy season, and I was down with fever. I
was in my house, in my hammock, and the wind was swinging it. It was
probably the hammock that did all the swinging, but I thought it was
the house, and I had one foot on the floor to try and steady it. But
it was no use. The walls lifted and sank all in one rush, like the
sides of a ship at sea. Outside I could see a pink roof, a white roof,
a tin roof, and then the forest, with the opening of a path like the
black mouth of a tunnel. I wanted to watch this tunnel, because I had
an idea I'd seen something crawl along it a good while before. But
I couldn't manage it; I had to shut my eyes. And then I felt the
scratching on my boot.
"I caught hold of the sides of the hammock, but it was some time
before I could manage to pull myself up. Then I looked down.
"A man was lying on the floor, face down, just as he had crawled into
my hut and fallen. The yellowish fingers of one hand clawed on my
boot, and that was the only sign that he was alive. He lay quite
still, except for the slow working of his fingers; and I sat still,
also, staring down at him with the infinite leisure that follows a
temperature of one hundred and five. It was only by slow degrees
that I realized that this was Derek Scott come back, and that he was
"I got to my feet and bent over him, but I wasn't strong enough to
raise him, of course. I was afraid he'd die before any one came. So I
took my revolver and aimed as well as I could at that tin roof beneath
which my man Pedro was eating his dinner. The barrel went up and down
with the walls of the hut, but I must have hit the roof, for the next
thing there was a lot of smoke and noise, and Pedro's face, eyes, and
mouth open, rushing out of it. There seemed no interval before I found
myself sitting in the hammock and saying over and over again, 'But
where's the little chap? Where's the little French chap?'
"Scott was still on the floor, but his head was on my man's shoulder,
and Pedro was gently feeding him with sips of brandy and condensed
milk. He turned and looked at me, and his eyes were clear and
considering as ever, though his answer didn't sound quite sane. He
said, 'The clocks wouldn't tick.'
"He said it as if it explained everything. Then he unstrapped a tin
case from his belt, laid his head on it, and was instantly asleep.
"I cried out, 'Is it the fever, Pedro?' But my man said: 'No, Senor,
it is the hunger.' He rolled Scott up very cleverly in a blanket.
'This senor has had the fever, but it is not upon him now. Without
doubt he is a little mad from being in the forest so long. But when
he wakes he will be stronger.' So much I heard, and no more.
Unconsciousness came down on me like a wave. But into the dark heart
of that wave I carried the certainty that Pedro knew all about the
matter and that he hated Henkel. How or why I was certain of this I
don't know. But I was.
"I woke in the cool of the evening. The fresh wind off the river was
like the breath of life, and Pedro's face, thrust close to mine, no
longer grew large and small by fits. I noticed that it was quite gray,
and that his lips twitched as he muttered, 'Senor, Senor--'
"I said: 'Where is the Senor Scott?'
"'He woke a little while ago, and called for water to wash in, and a
clean coat, and he used the hair-brush. Then he took the little tin
box and went out--went out.'
"I got to my feet, threw an arm over Pedro's shoulder, and he ran with
me out into the moonlit street. The track to the fountain lay like a
ribbon of silver, and the houses were like silver blocks. And every
house was shuttered and silent--breathless. Not a man lounged under
the shade of the walls, not a girl went late to draw water, not a dog
barked. The little place was deserted in the hold of the forest. It
lay like a lonely, luminous raft, in the midst of a black sea. Only
ahead of me a man stumbled slowly in the center of the road, and his
shadow staggered beside him. I have said there was no other living
thing visible. Yet, as this man stumbled past the shuttered houses
the very blades of grass, the very leaves on the wall, seemed to have
conscious life and to be aware of him. When the wind moved the trees,
every branch seemed to be straining to follow him as Pedro and I
"We followed, but we could not gain on him. It was like the dreams of
delirium. Pedro and I seemed to be struggling through the silence of
Herares as if it were something heavy and resistant, and Scott reeled
from side to side, but always kept the same distance ahead. We were
still behind when we turned into Henkel's garden, and the scent of the
flowers beat in our faces like heat. At the veranda steps we met the
servant who had admitted Scott.
"The man was running away. He was a cripple, and he came down the
steps doubled up, bundled past us, and was gone. Somewhere a door
clashed open. There was no other sound. But in a moment the garden
seemed, full of stampeding servants, all maimed, or ill, or aged. They
melted silently into the bushes as rats melt into brushwood, and they
took no notice of us. I heard Pedro catch his breath quickly. But when
a light flared up in one of the rooms it showed no more than Scott
talking with Henkel.
"They showed like moving pictures in a frame, and the frame was of
dark leaves about the window, which was open. I leaned against the
side of it, and Pedro squatted at my feet, his head thrust forward as
if he were at a cockfight. I did not know just why I was there. Henkel
sat at a table, wagging his head backward and forward; Scott was
sitting opposite him. And he looked as Lazarus might have looked when
first he heard the Voice and stirred.
"Henkel was saying, 'Dear me, dear me, but why should this have
happened?' And Scott answered as he had answered me, in that strange,
"'The clocks wouldn't tick.'
"'But they were good clocks,' cried Henkel.
"Scott shook his head. 'No, they were not good clocks,' he explained,
gently; 'they were too cheap. They would not go at all in the jungle.
An Indian of the Mazzaron does not care what time his clock tells, but
he likes it to tick. These were no good. And the food was not good.
The things in tins were bad when we opened them.'
"'Mismanagement, mismanagement,' said Henkel, but Scott went on as if
he had not heard:
"'We followed the river for two days, and then turned east. In a week
after that two of your men were dead. They died of fever. No, the
quinine was no good; there was a lot of flour in it. Two days more,
and another man died, but he would have died anyhow. It was very hard
to see them die and be able to do nothing.
"'The men who were left went so slowly that nearly all our food was
gone when we reached the country of the Indies. We made our camp and
I shot a pig. That gave us strength, but Louis was very bad then with
"'The Indies came down, and we spoke with their head men. They thought
we were mad, but the clocks pleased them; and they sat round our tents
and shook them to make them tick louder until Louis cried out in his
fever that all the world was a great clock that ticked. They gave us
leave to hunt in their country for butterflies, and the head men told
off six to help us. One was very clever. He used to wear his net
on his head, with the stick hanging down behind, and he snared the
butterflies with a loop of grass as if they were birds.
"'Our tents were of cheap cotton stuff that would not keep the rain
out, and the wet came in on Louis and made him worse. But he was
young, and I saw to it that he had food, and your men loved him. I do
not think he would have died if the clocks had ticked properly.'
"'I do not understand,' said Henkel, blinking his heavy brown eyes.
"'No? They were so cheap that they broke at the first winding. The
Indies brought them back and asked for better ones. I had no better
"'Still I do not understand,' said Henkel, smoothly, and blinked in
"Scott's tired voice went on. 'The Indios were very angry. They
brought us no more butterflies, and no more food. And presently, as
we went about the camp, or the paths of the forest, the little arrows
began to fall in front of us and behind us, though we never saw those
who shot at us.'
"'The little arrows?' asked Henkel, heavily. 'I do not understand. Go
"'There is very little to tell. Only a nightmare of hunger, of wet,
of fever, of silence, and the little poisoned arrows quivering
everywhere. And one day a little dart flickered through a rent in the
cotton tenting and struck Louis. He died in five minutes. Then I and
the men who were left broke through and came down the Mazzaron. The
Indies followed us, and I am the only one left. It is a pity the
clocks wouldn't tick, Mister Henkel.'
"'Ya, ya,' said Henkel, leaning over the table, 'but the butterfly?
The golden butterfly? You have found it?'
"Scott opened the tin case slowly and clumsily, drew out the perfect
insect, and laid it on the table. But it is wrong to speak of that
wide-winged loveliness of glittering and transparent gold as an
'insect.' Henkel sat staring at it, one big yellowish hand curved on
either side of it, too happy to speak. His lips moved, and I fancied
he was saying to himself, 'Cheap, cheap.'
"'It is very good,' he said at last, cunningly, 'but I am sorry there
is only one. I do not know that it is worth very much. But now I will
pay you as I promised. There was no agreement that you should receive
the other young man's share, and there is only one insect. But I will
"Scott was fumbling in his belt. 'Yes,' he said, 'you will pay me,'
and he leaned forward with something in his hand. We saw Henkel's face
turn to yellow wax, and he tried to stand up, but he was too stout to
lift himself quickly. He had no time to turn before Scott shot him
through the heart.
"When I broke through the vines, Scott was moving the butterfly out of
the way. He looked up at me with his old, considering look, his old
clean smile. 'It was cheap at the price,' he said, touching one golden
wing with his finger."