Part 2 out of 3
the dark skin was pallid, but the breath came easily from the sleeping
She smiled at Achilles, guiding him from the room, ignoring the tears
that looked at her. "He is doing well, you see. It was pressure that
caused the fever, the bone was not injured. He will recover quickly.
Yes. We are glad!"
And Achilles, out under the clear sky, raised his face and caught the
sound of the city--its murmured, innumerable toil and the great clang
of wheels turning. And he drew a deep, quick breath. A city of power
and swift care for its own. The land of many hands reaching out to the
world. And Achilles's head lifted itself under the sky; and a mighty
force knit within him--a deep, quiet force out of the soul of the past
THE POLICE MOVE
Life was busy for Achilles. There were visits to the hospital--where
he must not speak to his boy, but only look at him and catch little
silent smiles from the bandaged face--and visits to the great house on
the lake, where he came and went freely. The doors swung open of
themselves, it seemed, as Achilles mounted the steps between the
lions. All the pretty life and flutter of the place had changed.
Detectives went in and out; and instead of the Halcyon Club, the Chief
of Police and assistants held conferences in the big library. But
there was no clue to the child! . . . She had withdrawn, it seemed,
into a clear sky. James had been summoned to the library many times,
and questioned sharply; but his wooden countenance held no light and
the tale did not change by a hair. He had held the horses. Yes--there
wa'n't nobody--but little Miss Harris and him. . . . She was in the
carriage--he held the horses. The horses? They had frisked a bit,
maybe, the way horses will--at one o' them autos that squirted by, and
he had quieted 'em down--but there wa'n't nobody. . . . And he was the
last link between little Betty Harris and the world--all the bustling,
wrestling, interested world of Chicago--that shouted extras and stared
at the house on the lake and peered in at its life--at the rising and
eating and sleeping that went on behind the red-stone walls. The red-
stone walls had thinned to a veil and the whole world might look in--
because a child had been snatched away; and the heart of a city
understood. But no one but James could have told what had happened to
the child sitting with her little red cherries in the light; and James
was stupid--and in the bottomless abyss of James's face the clue was
Achilles had come in for his share of questioning. The child had been
to his shop it seemed . . . and the papers took it up and made much of
it--there were headlines and pictures . . . the public was interested.
The tale grew to a romance, and fathers and mothers and children in
Boston and New York and London heard how Betty had sat in the gay
little fruit-shop--and listened to Achilles's stories of Athens and
Greece, and of the Acropolis--and of the studies in Greek history, and
her gods and goddesses and the temples and ruins lying packed in their
boxes waiting her return. The daily papers were a thrilling tale--with
the quick touch of love and human sympathy that brings the world
To Achilles it was as if the hand of Zeus had reached and touched the
child--and she was not. What god sheltered her beneath a magic veil--
so that she passed unseen? He lifted his face, seeking in air and sun
and cloud, a token. Over the lake came the great breeze, speaking to
him, and out of the air a thousand hands reached to him--to tell him
of the child. But he could not find the place that held her. In the
dusky shop, he held his quiet way. No one, looking, would have
guessed--"Two cen's, yes," and his swift fingers made change while his
eyes searched every face. But the child, in her shining cloud, was not
When he was summoned before the detectives and questioned, with swift
sternness, it was his own questions that demanded answer--and got it.
The men gathered in the library, baffled by the search, and asking
futile, dreary questions, learned to wait in amusement for the quick,
searching gestures flung at them and the eager face that seemed to
drink their words. Gradually they came to understand--the Greek was
learning the science of kidnapping--its methods and devices and the
probable plan of approach. But the Chief shook his head. "You won't
trace these men by any of the old tricks. It's a new deal. We shall
only get them by a fluke." And to his own men he said, "Try any old
chance, boys, run it down--if it takes weeks--Harris won't compromise
--and you may stumble on a clue. The man that finds it makes money."
Gradually they drew their lines around the city; but still, from the
tapped wires, the messages came--to them, sitting in conclave in the
library--to Philip Harris in his bare office and to the mother,
waiting alone in her room.
At last she could not bear it. "I cannot hold out, Philip," she said,
one day, when he had come in and found her hanging up the receiver
with a fixed look. "Don't trust me, dear. Take me away." And that
night the big car had borne her swiftly from the city, out to the far-
breathing air of the plain and the low hills. In her room in the house
on the lake, her little telephone bell tinkled, and waited, and rang
again--baffled by long silence and by discreet replies. . . . The
tapped wires concentrated now upon Philip Harris, working by
suggestion, and veiled threat, on his overwrought nerves till his hand
shook when he reached out to the receiver--and his voice betrayed him
in his denials. They were closing on him, with hints of an ultimatum.
He dared not trust himself. He left the house to the detectives and
went down to the offices, where he could work and no one could get at
him. Every message from the outside world came to him sifted, and he
breathed more freely as he took up the telephone. The routine of
business steadied him. In a week he should be himself--he could return
to the attack.
Then a message got through to him--up through the offices. The man who
delivered it spoke in a clear, straight voice that did not rise or
fall. He had agreed to give the message, he said--a hundred thousand
paid to-day, or no communication for three months. The child would be
taken out of the country. The men behind the deal were getting tired
and would drop the whole business. They had been more than fair in the
chances they had offered for compromise. . . . There was a little
pause in the message--then the voice went on, "I am one of your own
men, Harris, inside the works--a man that you killed--in the way of
business. I agreed to give you the message--for quits. Good-bye." The
voice rang off and Philip Harris sat alone.
A man that he had killed--in the way of business--! Hundreds of them--
at work for him--New York--Cincinnati--St. Louis. It would not be easy
--to trace a man that he had killed in business.
So he sat with bent head, in the circle of his own works . . . the
network he had spread over the land--and somewhere, outside that
circle, his child, the very heart, was held as hostage--three months.
Little Betty! He shivered a little and got op and reached for a flask
of brandy and poured it out, gulping it down. He looked about the room
. . . inside now. He had shut himself in his citadel . . . and they
were inside. The brandy stayed his hand from shaking--but he knew that
he had weakened. His mind went back to the man he had "killed in
business"--the straight, clear voice sounding over the 'phone--he had
not wanted to ruin him--them, hundreds of them. It was the System--
kill or be killed. He took his chance and they took theirs--and they
had gone down.
A CLUE GOES TO SLEEP
The morning was alive in the hospital. The sun glinted in. Pale faces,
lifted on their pillows, turned toward it; and Achilles, passing with
light step between the rows, smiled at them. Alcibiades was better.
They had told him, in the office, that he might talk to him to-day--a
little while--and his face glowed with the joy of it.
The boy hailed him, from far down the ward, his weak voice filled with
gladness, and Achilles hurried. He dropped into the chair beside him
and took the thin hand in his strong, dark one, holding it while he
talked--gentle words, full of the morning and of going home. The boy's
eyes brightened, watching his father's face.
"Pain--gone," he said, "--all gone." His hand lifted to his forehead.
Achilles bent forward and touched it lightly, brushing the hair across
it. "You are well now," he said gratefully.
The boy smiled, his dark eyes fixed absently on his thoughts. "They--
bad men!" he said abruptly.
Achilles leaned forward with anxious look, but the boy's eyes were
clear. "They run down," he said quietly, "--and go fast--like wind--I
try--I run. They shout and hit cart--and swear--and I lie on ground."
His lifted eyes seemed to be looking up at some great object passing
close above him . . . and a look of dread held them. He drew a quick
breath. "They bad men--" he said. "Little girl cry!"
Achilles bent forward, holding his breath. "What was it--Alcie?"
The boy's eyes turned toward him trustingly. "They hurt bad," he said.
"I try--I run--"
"And the little girl--?" suggested Achilles gently. His voice would
not have turned the breath of a dream; but Alcibiades wrinkled his
"She cry--" he said. "She look at me and cry--quick-- They hurt that
little girl. Yes--she cry--" His eyes closed sleepily. The nurse came
"Better not talk any more," she said.
Achilles got to his feet. He bent over the boy, his heart beating
fast. "Good-bye, Alcie. To-morrow you tell me more--all about the
little girl." The words dropped quietly into the sleeping ear and the
boy turned his face.
"To-morrow--tell--about--little girl . . ." he murmured--and was
Achilles passed swiftly out of the hospital--through the sun-glinting
wards, out to the free air--his heart choking him. At the corner, he
caught a car bound for the South side and boarded it.
And at the same moment Philip Harris, in his office in the works, was
summoning the Chief of Police to instruct him to open negotiations
with the kidnappers.
But Achilles reached the office first and before noon every member of
the force knew that a clue had been found--a clue light as a child's
breath between sleep and waking, but none the less a clue--and
to-morrow more would be known.
So Philip Harris stayed his hand--because of the muttered, half-
incoherent word of a Greek boy, drowsing in a great sunny ward, the
millionaire waited--and little children were safer that night.
PHILIP HARRIS WAKES UP
But the surgeon, the next morning, shook his head peremptorily. His
patient had been tampered with, and was worse--it was a critical case
--all the skill and science of modern surgery involved in it . . . the
brain had barely escaped--by a breath, it might be--no one could tell
. . . but the boy must be kept quiet. There must be no more agitation.
They must wait for full recovery. Above all--nothing that recalled the
accident. Let nature take her own time--and the boy might yet speak
out clearly and tell them what they wanted--otherwise the staff could
not be responsible.
It was to Philip Harris himself that the decree was given, sitting in
the consulting-room of the white hospital--looking about him with
quick eyes. He had taken out his cheque-book and written a sum that
doubled the efficiency of the hospital, and the surgeon had thanked
him quietly and laid it aside. "Everything is being done for the boy,
Mr. Harris, that we can do. But one cannot foresee the result. He may
come through with clear mind--he may remember the past--he may
remember part of it--but not the part you want. But not a breath must
disturb him--that is the one thing clear--and it is our only chance."
His eyes were gentle and keen, and Philip Harris straightened himself
a little beneath them. The cheque, laid one side, looked suddenly
small and empty . . . and the great stockyards were a blur in his
thought. Not all of them together, it seemed, could buy the skill that
was being given freely for a Greek waif, or hurry by a hair's breadth
the tiny globule of grey matter that held his life.
"Tell me if there is anything I can do," he said. He had risen and was
facing the surgeon, looking at him like a little boy--with his hat in
The surgeon returned the look. "There will be plenty to do, Mr.
Harris. This, for instance--" He took up the cheque and looked at it
and folded it in slow fingers. "It will be a big lift to the hospital
. . . and the boy--there will be things later--for the boy--"
"Private room?" suggested the great man.
"No--the ward is better. It gives him interests--keeps his mind off
himself and keeps him from remembering things. But when he can be
moved, he must be in the country--good food, fresh air, things to
amuse him--he's a jolly little chap!" The surgeon laughed out. "Oh, we
shall bring him through." He added it almost gaily. "He is so sane--he
is a Greek!"
Philip Harris looked at him, uncomprehending. "How long before he can
be moved?" he asked bluntly.
The surgeon paused--"two weeks--three--perhaps--I must have him under
my eye--I can't tell--" He looked at the great man keenly. "What he
really needs, is someone to come in for awhile everyday--to talk with
him--or keep quiet with him--someone with sense."
"His father?" said Philip Harris.
"Not his father. It must be someone he has never seen--no memories to
puzzle him--yet. But someone that he might have known always--all his
"That is Miss Stone," said Philip Harris promptly.
"Does he know Miss Stone?" asked the surgeon.
Philip Harris shook his head. "No one knows Miss Stone," he said; "but
she is the friendliest person in all the world--when I get to heaven,
I hope Marcia Stone will be there to show me around--just to take the
edge off." He smiled a little.
"Well, she is the person we want--can she come?"
"She sits at home with her hands folded," said Philip Harris. He
waited a minute. "She was my little girl's friend," he said at last.
"They were always together.
"I remember--" The surgeon held out his hand. "Let her come. She will
be invaluable." His voice had a friendly ring. It was no longer a
millionaire that faced him--handing out cheques--but a father, like
himself. There were four of them at home, waiting on the stairs for
him to come at night--and he suddenly saw that Philip Harris was a
brave man--holding out for them all--waiting while the little fleck of
grey matter knit itself. He looked at him a minute keenly--"Why not
come in yourself, now and then," he said, "as he gets better? Later
when you take him away, he will know you--better for him."
So the ward became familiar with the red face and Prince Albert coat
and striped trousers and patent leather shoes, crunching softly down
the still, white room. It was a new Philip Harris, sauntering in at
noon with a roll of pictures--a box of sweets, enough candy to ruin
the ward--a phonograph under one arm and a new bull pup under the
other. The pup sprawled on the floor and waked happy laughs up and
down the ward and was borne out, struggling, by a hygienic nurse, and
locked in the bathroom. The phonograph stayed and played little tunes
for them--jolly tunes, of the music hall, and all outdoors. And Philip
Harris enjoyed it as if he were playing with the stock exchange of a
world. The brain that could play with a world when it liked, was
devoted now, night and day, to a great hospital standing on the edge
of the plain, and to the big free ward, and to a dark face, flashing a
smile when he came.
Miss Stone sat by the boy on the lawn at Idlewood. A great canopy of
khaki duck was spread above them, and the boy lay on a wicker couch
that could be lifted and carried from place to place as the wind or
the sun, or a whim directed.
Five days they had been here--every day full of sunshine and the
fragrance of flowers from the garden that ran along the terraces from
the house to the river bank, and was a riot of midsummer colour and
scent. The boy's face had gained clear freshness and his eyes, fixed
on Miss Stone's face, glowed. "I like--it--here," he said.
"Yes, Alcie." Miss Stone bent toward him. "You are getting strong
every day--you will soon be able to walk--to-morrow, perhaps." She
glanced at the thin legs under their light covering.
The boy laughed a little and moved them. "I can walk now--" he
But she shook her head. "No, I will tell you a story." So her voice
went on and on in the summer quiet--insects buzzed faintly, playing
the song of the day. Bees bumbled among the flowers and flew past,
laden. The boy's eyes followed them. The shadow of a crow's wing
dropped on the grass and drifted by. The summer day held itself--and
Miss Stone's voice wove a dream through it.
When the boy opened his eyes again she was sitting very quiet, her
hands in her lap, her eyes fixed on the river that flowed beyond the
garden. The boy's eyes studied her face. "Once--I--saw--you--" he
said. His hand stole out and touched the grey dress.
Miss Stone started. They had waited a long time--but not for this.
"Yes, Alcie, once you saw me--go on--"
"--saw you--in a carriage," finished Alcie, with quick smile. "You
ride straight--you--straight--now." He looked at her with devoted
"Yes." She was holding her breath, very evenly--and she did not look
at him, but at the distant river. They seemed held in a charm--a word
might break it.
The boy breathed a happy sigh--that bubbled forth. "I like it--here,"
he said dreamily. . . . Should she speak?
The long silence spread between them. The bird sang in the wood--a
clear, mid-summer call.
The boy listened, and turned his eyes. "A little girl--with you then,"
he said softly, "in carriage. Where is little girl?" It was the first
question he had asked.
She swayed a little--in her grey softness--but she did not look at
him, but at the river. "You would like that little girl, Alcie," she
said quietly. "We all love her. Some day you shall see her--only get
well and you shall see her." It was a soft word, like a cry, and the
boy looked at her with curious eyes.
"I get well," he said contentedly, "I see her." He slipped a hand
under his cheek and lay quiet.
"Doing well," said the surgeon, "couldn't be better." He had run down
for the day and was to go back in the cool evening.
He stood with Philip Harris on the terrace overlooking the river.
Harris threw away a stump of cigar. "You think he will make complete
"No doubt of it," said the surgeon promptly.
"Then--?" Philip Harris turned a quick eye on him.
But the man shook his head. "Wait," he said--and again, slowly,
The darkness closed around them, but they did not break it. A faint
questioning honk sounded, and Philip Harris turned. "The car is
ready," he said, "to take you back."
A WOMAN IN THE GARDEN
"When it comes, it may come all at once," the surgeon had said, "and
overwhelm him. Better lead up to it--if we can--let him recall it--a
bit here--a bit there--feel his way back--to the old place--to
"Where my child is," said Philip Harris.
"Where your child is," repeated the surgeon, "and that clue runs
through the frailest, intangiblest matter that fingers ever touched."
He had looked down at his own thin, long, firm fingers as if doubting
that they could have held that thread for a moment and left it intact.
Philip Harris moved restively a little, and came back. "There has not
been a word for seven weeks," he said, "not a breath--"
"They told you--?" said the surgeon.
"That they would wait three months! Yes! Philip Harris puffed
fiercely. "It is hell!" he said.
"The boy is better," said the surgeon. "You have only to wait a little
And he was whirred away in the great car--to the children that needed
him, and Idlewood had settled, in its charmed stillness, into the
night. . . . No one would have guessed that it was a state of siege
there--the world passed in and out of the big gates--automobiles and
drays and foot passengers, winding their way up to the low, rambling
house that wandered through the flowers toward the river and the wood.
Windows were open everywhere and voices sounded through the garden.
In one of the rooms, darkened to the light, the mistress of the house
lay with closed eyes. She could not bear the light, or the sound of
voices--listening always to hear a child's laugh among them--the gay
little laugh that ran toward her in every room, and called.
She had shut herself away, and only Philip Harris came to the closed
room, bringing her news of the search, or sitting quietly by her in
the darkness. But for weeks there had been no news, no clue. The
search was baffled. . . . They had not told her of the Greek boy and
the muttered words.
"Better not trouble her," the physician had urged. "She cannot bear
disappointment--if nothing comes of it."
And no word filtered through to the dim room . . . and all the clues
withdrew in darkness.
Out in the garden Alcibiades and Miss Stone worked among the flowers.
It was part of the cure--that they should work there among growing
things every day--close to the earth--and his voice sounded happily as
The woman in the closed room turned her head uneasily. She listened a
moment. Then she called. . . . Marie stood in the doorway.
"Who is /there/--Marie--in the garden?"
The maid stole to the window and peered through the shutters. She came
back to the bed. "It's a boy," she said, "a Greek boy--and Miss
"Why is he here?" asked the woman, querulously.
The maid paused--discreet. She knew--everyone except the woman lying
with closed eyes--knew why the boy was here. . . . She bent and
adjusted the pillow, smoothing it. "He is someone Mr. Harris sent
down," she said, "someone to get well."
There was no reply. The woman lay quiet. "I want to get up, Marie,"
she said at last. "It is stifling here."
The windows were opened a little--the light came in slowly, and Mrs.
Philip Harris stepped at last into the loggia that led from her
windows--out toward the garden. Grapevines climbed the posts and
tendril shadows were on the ground beneath. They rested on the frail
figure moving under them toward the light.
Marie hovered near her, with pillows and a sunshade, and her face full
But the woman waved her back. "I do not need you, Marie. Here--I will
take the sunshade. Now, go back." She moved on slowly. The voices had
died away. In the distance, she saw Miss Stone, moving toward the
wood, alone. She paused for a moment, watching the grey figure--a
little cloud passed across her face. She had not seen Miss Stone--
since . . . she did not blame her--but she could not see her. She
moved on slowly, the light from the sunshade touching the lines in her
face and flushing them softly. Suddenly she stopped. On a low couch, a
little distance away, a boy lay asleep. She came up to him softly and
stood watching him. There was something in the flushed face, in the
childish, drooping lip and tossed hair--that reminded her. Slowly she
sank down beside him, hardly breathing.
All about them, the summer went on--the quiet, gentle warmth and the
fresh scent of blossoms. The boy murmured a little, and threw out an
arm, and slept on. The woman's eyes watched the sleeping face.
Something mysterious was in it--a look of other worlds. It was the
look of Betty--at night . . . when she lay asleep. It certainly was
from some other world. The woman bent forward a little. The dark eyes
opened--and looked at her--and smiled. The boy sat up. "I sleep," he
He rubbed his eyes, boyishly, smiling still to her. "I very sleepy,"
he said. "I work." He rubbed his arms. "I work hard."
She questioned him and moved a little away, and he came and sat at her
feet, telling her of himself--with quiet slowness. As she questioned
him he told her all that he knew. And they chatted in the sunshine--
subtly drawn to each other--happy in something they could not have
The boy had grown refined by his illness--the sturdy hands that had
guided the push-cart had lost their roughened look and seemed the
shape of some old statue; and the head, poised on the round throat,
was as if some old museum had come to life and laughed in the sun. If
Mrs. Philip Harris had seen Alcibiades shoving his cart before him,
along the cobbled street, his head thrown back, his voice calling
"Ban-an-nas!" as he went, she would not have given him a thought. But
here, in her garden, in the white clothes that he wore, and sitting at
her feet, it was as if the gates to another world had opened to them--
and both looked back together at his own life. The mystery in the
boy's eyes stirred her--and the sound of his voice . . . there was
something in it . . . beauty, wonder--mystery. She drew a quick
breath. "I think I will go in," she said, and the boy lifted himself
to help her--and only left her, under the loggia, with a quick,
grateful flash of the dark smile.
Mrs. Philip Harris slept that night--the chloral, on the little table
beside her, untouched. And the next day found her in the garden.
All the household watched--with quickened hope. The mistress of the
house had taken up her life, and the old quick orders ran through the
house. And no one spoke of the child. It was as if she were asleep--in
some distant room--veiled in her cloud. But the house came back to its
life. Only, the social groups that had filled it every summer were not
there. But there was the Greek boy, in the garden, and Miss Stone, and
Philip Harris whirring out at night and sitting on the terrace in the
dusk, the light of his cigar glimmering a little, as he watched the
Greek boy flung on the ground at his feet, his eyes playing with the
stars. He knew them all by name under the skies of Greece. Achilles
had taught them to him; and he counted them, like a flock, as he lay
on the terrace--rolling out the great Greek names while they girdled
the sky above him in a kind of homely chant.
When the boy had gone to bed Philip Harris remained smoking
thoughtfully and looking still at the stars. He had had a long talk
with the surgeon to-day and he had given his consent. The boy was
well, he admitted--as well as he was likely to be--perhaps. Give him
three more days--then, if nothing happened, they might question him.
Philip Harris threw away his cigar--and its glimmering light went out
in the grass. Overhead the great stars still circled in space,
travelling on toward the new day.
THE TEST IS MADE
"I will ask the questions," Achilles had said, in his quiet voice, and
it had been arranged that he should come to Idlewood when the surgeon
gave the word.
He arrived the next night, stepping from the car as it drew up before
the door, and Alcibiades, standing among the flowers talking with Miss
Stone, saw him and started and came forward swiftly. He had not known
that his father was coming--he ran a little as he came nearer and
threw himself in his arms, laughing out.
Achilles smiled--a dark, wistful smile. "You are grown strong," he
said. He held him off to look at him.
The boy's teeth gleamed--a white line. "To-morrow we go home?" he
replied. "I am all well--father--well now!"
But Achilles shook his head. "To-morrow we stay," he replied. "I stay
one day--two days--three--" He looked at the boy narrowly. "Then we go
The boy smiled contentedly and they moved away. Early the next morning
he was up before Achilles, calling to him from the garden to hurry and
see the flowers before the mist was off them, and showing him, with
eager teeth, his own radishes--ready to pull--and little lines of
green lettuce that sprang above the earth. "I plant," said the boy
proudly. "I make grow." He swung his arm over the whole garden.
Achilles watched him with gentle face, following him from bed to bed
and stooping to the plants with courteous gesture. It was all like
home. They had never been in a garden before--in this new land . . .
the melons and berries and plums and peaches and pears that came
crated into the little fruit-shop had grown in unknown fields--but
here they stretched in the sun; and the two Greeks moved toward them
with laughing, gentle words and quick gestures that flitted and
stopped, and went on, and gathered in the day. The new world was
gathering its sky about them; and their faces turned to meet it. And
with every gesture of the boy, Achilles's eyes were on him, studying
his face, its quick colour running beneath the tan, and the clear
light of his eyes. Indoors or out, he was testing him; and with every
gesture his heart sang. His boy was well . . . and he held a key that
should open the dark door that baffled them all. When he spoke, that
door would open for them--a little way, perhaps--only a little way--
but the rest would be clear. And soon the boy would speak.
In the house Philip Harris waited; and with him the chief of police,
detectives and plain-clothes men--summoned hastily--waited what should
develop. They watched the boy and his father, from a distance, and
speculated and made guesses on what he would know; for weeks they had
been waiting on a sick boy's whim--held back by the doctor's orders.
They watched him moving across the garden--his quick, supple gestures,
his live face--the boy was well enough! They smoked innumerable cigars
and strolled out through the grounds and sat by the river, and threw
stones into its sluggish current, waiting while hours went by. Since
the ultimatum--a hundred thousand for three months--not a line had
reached them, no message over the whispering wires--the child might be
in the city, hidden in some safe corner; she might be in Europe, or in
Timbuctoo. There had been time enough to smuggle her away. Every port
had been watched, but there was the Canadian line stretching to the
north, and the men who were "on the deal" would stop at nothing. They
had been approached, tentatively, in the beginning, for a share of
profits; but they had scorned the overture. "Catch me--if you can!"
the voice laughed and rang off. The police were hot against them. Just
one clue--the merest clue--and they would run it to earth--like
bloodhounds. They chewed the ends of their cigars and waited . . . and
in the garden the boy and his father watched the clouds go by and
talked of Athens and gods and temples and sunny streets. Back through
the past, carefree they went--and at every turn the boy's memory rang
true. "Do you remember, Alcie--the little house below the Temple of
the Winds--" Achilles's eyes were on his face--and the boy's face
laughed--"Yes--father. That house--" quick running words that tripped
themselves--"where I stole--figs--three little figs. You whipped me
then!" The boy laughed and turned on his side and watched the clouds
and the talk ran on . . . coming closer at last, across the great Sea,
through New York and the long hurrying train, into the grimy city--on
the shore of the lake--the boy's eyes grew wistful. "I go home--with
you--father--?" he said. It was a quick question and his eyes flashed
from the garden to his father's face.
"Do you what to go home, Alcie?" The face smiled at him. "Don't you
like it here?" A gesture touched the garden.
"I like--yes. I go home--with you," he said simply.
"You must stay till you are strong," said the father, watching him.
"You were hurt, you know. It takes time to get strong. . . . You
remember that you were hurt?"
The words dropped slowly, one by one, and the day drowsed. The sun--
warm as Athens--shone down, waiting, while the boy turned slowly on
his side . . . his eyes had grown dark. "I try--remember" His voice
was half a whisper, "--but it runs--away!" The eyes seemed to be
straining to see something beyond them--through a veil.
Achilles's hand passed before them and shut them off. "Don't try,
Alcie. Never mind--it's all right. Don't mind!"
But the boy had thrown himself forward with a long cry, sobbing. "I--
want--to--see," he said, "it--hurts--here." His fingers touched the
faint line along his forehead. And Achilles bent and kissed it, and
soothed him, talking low words--till the boy sat up, a little laugh on
his lips--his grief forgotten.
So the detectives went back to the city--each with his expensive
cigar--cursing luck. And Achilles, after a day or two, followed them.
"He will be better without you," said the surgeon. "You disturb his
mind. Let him have time to get quiet again. Give nature her chance."
So Achilles returned to the city, unlocking the boy's fingers from
his. "You must wait a little while," he said gently. "Then I come for
you." And he left the boy in the garden, looking after the great
machine that bore him away--an unfathomable look in his dark,
A CONNOISSEUR SPEAKS
The next day it rained. All day the rain dripped on the roof and ran
down the waterspouts, hurrying to the ground. In her own room the
mistress of the house sat watching the rain and the heavy sky and
drenched earth. The child was never for a minute out of her thoughts.
Her fancy pictured gruesome places, foul dens where the child sat--
pale and worn and listless. Did they tie her hands? Would they let her
run about a little--and play? But she could not play--a child could
not play in all the strangeness and sordidness. The mother had watched
the dripping rain too long. It seemed to be falling on coffins. She
crept back to the fire and held out her hands to a feeble blaze that
flickered up, and died out. Why did not Marie come back? It was three
o'clock--where was Marie? She looked about her and held out her hands
to the blaze and shivered--there was fire in her veins, and beside her
on the hearth the child seemed to crouch and shiver and reach out thin
hands to the warmth. Phil had said they would not hurt her! But what
could a man know? He did not know the sensitive child-nature that
trembled at a word. And she was with rough men--hideous women--longing
to come home--wondering why they did not come for her and take her
away . . . dear child! How cruel Phil was! She crouched nearer the
fire, her eyes devouring it--her thoughts crowding on the darkness.
Those terrible men had been silent seven weeks--more than seven--
desperate weeks . . . not a word out of the darkness--and she could
not cry out to them--perhaps they would not tap the wires again! The
thought confronted her and she sprang up and walked wildly, her pulses
beating in her temples. . . . She stopped by a table and looked down.
A little vial lay there, and the medicine dropper and wine glass--
waiting. She turned her head uneasily and moved away. She must save it
for the night--for the dark hours that never passed. But she must
think of something! She glanced about her, and rang the bell sharply,
"I want the Greek boy," she said, "send him to me!"
"Yes, madame." Marie's voice hurried itself away . . . and Alcibiades
stood in the doorway, looking in.
The woman turned to him--a little comfort shining in the sleepless
eyes. "Come in," she said, "I want to talk to you--tell me about
Athens--the sun shines there!" She glanced again at the hearth and
The boy came in, flashing a gleam through the dark day. The little
sadness of the night before had gone. He was alive and lithe and
happy. He came over to her, smiling . . . and she looked at him
curiously. "What have you been doing all day?" she asked.
"I play," said Alcibiades, "I play--on flute--" His fingers made
little music gestures at his lips, and fell away. "And I--run--" he
said, "I go in rain--and run--and come in." He shook his dark head.
Little gleams of moisture shone from it. The earth seemed to breathe
She drew a quick breath. "You shall tell me," she said, "but not
here." She glanced about the room filled with sickness and wild
thoughts--not even the boy's presence dispelled them. "We will go away
somewhere--to the gallery," she said quickly, "it is lighter there and
I have not been there--for weeks." Her voice dropped a little.
The boy followed her through the hall, across a covered way, to the
gallery that held the gems--and the refuse--that Philip Harris had
gathered up from the world. She looked about her with a proud,
imperious gesture. She knew--better now than when the pictures were
purchased--which ones were good, and which were very bad; but she
could not interfere with the gallery. It was Philip's own place in the
house. It had been his fancy--to buy pictures--when the money came
pouring in faster than they could spend it--and the gallery was his
own private venture--his gymnasium in culture! She smiled a little.
Over there, a great canvas had been taken down and carted off to make
room for the little Monticelli in its place. He was learning--yes! But
she could not bring guests to the gallery when they came to Idlewood
for the day. If he would only let a connoisseur go through the place
and pick out the best ones--the gallery was not so bad! She looked
about her with curious, tolerant smile.
The boy's gaze followed hers. He had not been in this big room, with
the high-reaching skylight, and the vari-coloured pictures and grey
walls. His dark eyes went everywhere--and flashed smiles and brought a
touch-stone to the place. Eyes trained to the Acropolis were on the
pictures; and the temples of the gods spoke in swift words or laughed
out in quick surprise.
The mistress of the house followed him, with amused step. If Phil
could only hear it! She must manage somehow--Phil was too shrewd and
practical not to see how true the boy was--and how keen! That great
Thing--over the fireplace--Chicago on her throne, with the nations
prostrate before her--how the boy wondered and chuckled--and
questioned her--and brought the colour to her face! . . . Philip had
stood before the picture by the hour--entranced; the man who painted
it had made a key to go with it, and Philip Harris knew the meaning of
every line and figure--and he gloried and wallowed in it. "That is a
picture with some sense in it!" was his proudest word, standing before
it and waving his hand at the vision on her throne. She was a lovely
lady--a little like his wife, Philip Harris thought. Perhaps the
artist had not been unaware of this. Certainly Mrs. Philip Harris knew
it, and loathed the Thing. The boy's words were like music to her
soul, under the skylight with the rain dripping softly down. She had
thought of covering the Thing up--a velvet curtain, perhaps. But she
had not quite dared yet. . . . Across the room another picture was
covered by a curtain--the velvet folds sweeping straight in front of
it, and covering it from top to bottom. Only the rim of the gilt frame
that reached to the ceiling, glimmered about the blue folds of the
curtain. The boy's eyes had rested on the curtained picture as they
passed before it, but Mrs. Philip Harris had not turned her head. She
felt the boy's eyes now--they had wandered to it again, and he stood
with half-parted lips, as if something behind the curtain called to
him. She touched him subtly and drew his attention--and he followed
her a minute . . . then his attention wandered and he gazed at the
deep folds in the curtain with troubled eyes. She hesitated a moment--
and her hand trembled. It was as if the curtain were calling her, too,
and she moved toward it, the boy beside her. . . . They did not speak
--they moved blindly and paused a breath . . . the rain falling on the
skylight. The boy flashed a smile to her. "I have not see it," he
She reached out her hand then and drew back the curtain. "It is Betty
--my little girl--" she said, "she has gone away--" She was talking
aimlessly--to steady her hands. But the boy did not hear her--he had
stumbled a little--and his eyes were on the picture--searching the
roguish smile, the wide eyes, the straight, true little figure that
seemed stepping toward them--out from behind the curtain. . . . The
mother's eyes feasted on it a moment hungrily and she turned to the
boy. But he did not see--his gaze was on the picture--and he took a
step--and looked--and drew his hand across his eyes with a little
breath. Then he reached out his hands, "--I--see--her," he said
swiftly. "She look at me--on ground--she cry--" His face worked a
minute--then it grew quiet and he turned it toward her. "I see--her,"
he repeated slowly.
She had seized his shoulder and was questioning him, forcing him
toward the picture, calling the words into his ear as if he were deaf,
or far away--and the boy responded slowly--truly, each word lighting
up the scene for her--the great car crashing upon him, the overthrow
of his cart, the scattered fruit on the ground, and the Greek boy
crawling toward it--thrust forward as the car pushed by--and his
swift, upward glance of the girl's face as it flashed past, and of the
men holding her between them--"She cry," he said--as if he saw the
vision again before him. "She cry--and they stop--hands." He placed
both hands across his mouth, shutting out words and cry.
And the mother fondled him and cried to him and questioned him again.
/She/ had no fear--no knowledge of what might hang in the balance--of
the delicate grey matter that trembled at her strokes . . . no surgeon
would have dared question so sternly, so unsparingly. But the delicate
brain held itself steady and the boy's eyes were turned to her--
piecing her broken words, answering them before they came--as if she
drew them forth at will--
The door opened and she looked up and sprang forward. "Listen, Phil.
He saw Betty!" Her hand trembled to the boy. "He /saw/ her--/that last
day/--it must be--tell him, Alcie--"
The boy was looking at him smiling quietly, and nodding to him.
Philip Harris closed the door with set face.
"WHAT DID YOU SEE?"
"What did you see--boy?" Philip Harris stood with his legs well apart,
looking at him.
The boy answered quickly, his quick gesture running to the picture
above them, and filling out his words. He had gathered the story of
the child as the mother had gathered his--and his voice trembled a
little, but it did not falter in the broken words.
Philip Harris glanced up. The rain on the skylight had ceased, but the
room was full of dusk. "There is not time," he said, "to-night-- You
must rest now, and have your dinner and go to bed. To-morrow there
will be men to question you. You must tell them what you have told
"I tell them," said the boy simply, "--what I see."
So the boy slept quietly . . . and through the night, messages ran
beneath the ground, they leaped out and struck wires--and laughed. Men
bent their heads to listen . . . and spoke softly and hurried. Cars
thrust themselves forth, striking at the miles--their great bulk
sliding on. The world was awake--gathering itself . . . toward the
In the morning they questioned him--they set down his answers with
quick, sharp jerks that asked for more. And the boy repeated
faithfully all that he had told; and the surgeon sitting beside him
watched with keen eyes--and smiled. . . . The boy would hold. He was
sound. But they must be careful . . . and after a little he sent him
into the garden to work--while the men compared notes and sent
despatches and the story travelled into the world, tallying itself
against the face of every rogue. But there were no faces that matched
it--no faces such as the boy had cherished with minute care . . . as
if the features had been stamped--one flashing stroke--upon his brain,
and disappeared. There could be no doubt of them--the description of
the child was perfect--red cherries, grey coat--and floating curls. He
seemed to see the face before him as he talked--and the face of the
big man at her left, with red moustache and sharp chin--and the
smaller man beside her, who had clapped his hand across her mouth and
glared at the boy on the ground--his eyes were black--yes, and he wore
a cap--pulled down, and collar up--you only saw the eyes--black as--
The boy had looked about him a minute, and pointed to the shoes of the
chief of police gleaming in the sunlight--patent leathers, and dress
suit, hurried away from a political banquet the night before. The men
smiled and the pencils raced. . . . There had been another man who
drove the machine, but the boy had not noticed him--his swift glance
had taken in only the child, it seemed, and the faces that framed her.
A little later they drove into the city--the boy accompanying them,
and the surgeon and Achilles, who had hurried out with the first news
and had listened to his son's story with dark, silent eyes. He sat in
the car close to Alcibiades, one hand on the back of the seat, the
other on the boy's hand. Through the long miles they did not speak.
The boy seemed resting in his father's strength. It was only when they
reached the scene of his disaster that he roused himself and pointed
with quick finger--to the place where he had fallen. . . . He was
pushing his cart--so--and he looked up--quick--and his cart went--so!
--and all his fruit, and he was down--looking up--and the car went by,
close. . . . Which way?--He could not tell that--no. . . . He shut his
eyes--his face grew pale. He could not tell.
The street forked here--it might have been either way--by swerving a
little. And the police looked wise and took notes and reporters
photographed the spot and before night a crowd had gathered about it,
peering hopefully at the pavement where Alcibiades had lain, and
pointing with eager fingers to bits of peel--orange and banana--
scattered by the last passer-by, and gazing at dark stains on the
pavement--something that might be marks of blood--after ten weeks of
rain and mud and dust!
Achilles and the boy returned to the shop. "I want to go home," the
boy had said, as the car turned away, "I--go--home--with you, father."
So they had drawn up at the little fruit shop; and Yaxis in the door,
his teeth gleaming, had darted out to meet them, hovering about them
and helping his brother up the stairs and out to the verandah that ran
across the windows at the rear. Down below, in tin-can backyards of
the neighbours, old bottles and piles of broken lumber filled the
place; but along the edge of the verandah, boxes of earth had been
set, and the vines ran to the top, shutting out the glare of the brick
walls opposite and making a cool spot in the blank heat.
Alcibiades looked at the vines with happy eyes. "They grow," he said
Yaxis nodded and produced a pot of forget-me-nots. He had been tending
them for three weeks--for Alcie. They bent over the pot, blue with
blossoms, talking eager words and little gestures and quick laughs.
And Achilles, coming out, smiled at the two heads bending above the
plant. Yaxis had been lonely--but now the little laughs seemed to stir
softly in the close rooms and wake something happy there.
ACHILLES HAS A PLAN
The next day, life in the little shop went on as if there had been no
break. With the early light, Yaxis was off, to the south, pushing his
tip-cart before him and calling aloud--bananas and fruit and the joy
of Alcibiades's return, in his clear, high voice. . . . In the shop,
Achilles arranged the fruit--great piles of oranges, and grape fruit
and figs--and swung the heavy bunches of bananas to their hooks
outside, and opened crates and boxes and made ready for the day. By
and by, when trade slackened a little, he would slip away and leave
Alcibiades in charge of the shop. His mind was busy as he worked. He
had something to do that would take him away from the shop--every day
for a while, it might be--but the shop would not suffer. Alcibiades
was strong--not well enough, perhaps, to go out with the new push-cart
that had replaced the old one, and waited outside, but strong enough
to make change and fill up the holes in the piles of oranges as they
diminished under the swift rush of trade.
Achilles's eyes rested on him fondly. It had been lonely in the shop--
but now the long days of waiting were repaid . . . they had their
clue. Even now the detectives might have followed it up. The little
lady would be found. He hurried over the last things--his heart
singing--and called the boy to him.
"I go away," he said, looking at him kindly. "You stay in shop--till I
"Yes, father." The boy's eyes were happy. It was good to be in the
close, dark, home place with its fruity smell and the striped awning
outside. "I do all right!" he said gaily.
The father nodded. "To-morrow you go with push-cart--little way--every
day little way--" He waited a moment while the boy's face took in the
words--he spoke with slow significance-- "Some day you see--those men
--then you run--like devil!" he said quickly, "you tell me!"
The boy's teeth made a quick line of light and his face flashed. "I
tell--quick!" he said, "I know those men!"
He left the shop and was lost in the crowd. He was going first to the
city hall for news--then he would seek Philip Harris. The plan that he
was shaping in his mind needed help.
But at the city hall there was no news. The chief of police seemed
even a little irritated at the sight of the dark face and the slim,
straight figure that stood before him. He eyed it a moment, almost
hostilely; then he remembered Philip Harris's command and told the man
what steps had been taken and the reports that had come in thus far
through the day. The Greek listened without comment, his dark face
smouldering a little over its quick fire. "You find nothing?" he said
"Not a damn thing!" answered the chief.
"I go try," said Achilles.
The man looked at him. Then he laughed out. The door opened. It was
the detective in charge of the case. He glanced at Achilles and went
over to the chief and said something. But the chief shook his head and
they looked carelessly at Achilles, while the chief drummed on the
desk. Achilles waited with slow, respectful gaze.
The detective came across to him. "No news," he said.
Achilles's face held its steady light. "I think we find her," he said.
The inspector did not laugh. He studied the man's face slowly,
whistling a little between his teeth. "What's your plan?" he said.
Achilles shook his head. "When I see those men--I go follow."
The detective smiled--a little line of smile . . . that did not scorn
him. "When you see them--yes!" he said softly.
The chief of police, listening with half an ear, laughed out. "Catch
your hare, Alexander!" He said it with superior ease.
Achilles looked at him. "I catch hair?" he asked with polite interest.
The chief nodded. "You catch your hare before you cook it, you know."
Achilles ran a slim, thoughtful hand along his dark locks and shook
them slowly. The conversation had passed beyond him.
The detective smiled a little. "Never mind him, Alexander. Anything
that you find--you bring to me--right off." He clinked a little money
in his pocket and looked at him.
But Achilles's gaze had no returning gleam. "When I find her," he
said, "I tell you--I tell everybody." His face had lightened now.
The detective laughed. "All right, Alexander! You're game, all right!"
Achilles looked at him with puzzled eyes. "I go now," he said. He
moved away with the smooth, unhurried rhythm that bore him swiftly
The eyes of the two men followed him. "You're welcome to him!" said
the chief carelessly.
"I don't feel so sure," said the other-- "He may do it yet--right
under our noses. I've done it myself--you know."
The chief looked at him curiously.
"/I/ used to do it--time and again," said the man, thoughtfully. "/I/
couldn't 'a' told you--/how/. I'd study on a case--and study--and give
it up--and then, all of a sudden--pop!--and there it was--in my head.
I couldn't have told how it got there, but it worked all right!" He
lighted a cigar and threw the match from him, puffing slowly. "I'd do
it now--if I could." He was lost in thought. "There's something in his
eyes--that Greek. I'd like to be inside that black skull of his a
minute." He sauntered across the room and went out.
The eyes of the chief of police looked after him vaguely. He drew a
column of figures toward him and began to add it--starting at the
bottom and travelling slowly up. He was computing his revenues for the
IT FLOATS A LITTLE
Achilles found Philip Harris at luncheon, and waited for him to come
back, and laid his plan before him.
The millionaire listened, and nodded once or twice, and took up the
receiver and gave an order. "He'll be at your place every day," he
said to Achilles as he hung it up. "You tell him what you want--and
let me know if there's anything else--money--?" He looked at him.
But Achilles shook his head. "I got money," he said quickly. "I get
money--six--seven dollar--every day. I do good business!"
The millionaire smiled, a little bitterly. "I do good business, too;
but it doesn't seem to count much. Well--let me know--" He held out
his hand and Achilles took it and hesitated and looked at the seamed
red face that waited for him to go--then he went quietly out.
He would have liked to speak swift words of hope--they rode high in
his heart--but something in the face put him off and he went out into
the sunshine and walked fast. He looked far ahead as he went, smiling
softly at his dream. And now and then a man passed him--and looked
back and smiled too--a shrew, tolerant, grown-up smile.
At ten o'clock the next morning Philip Harris's big touring car drew
up in front of the striped awning; it gave a little plaintive honk--
and stood still. Achilles came to the door with swift look. He turned
back to the shop. "I go," he said to Alcibiades, and stepped across
the pavement, and was off.
At two o'clock he returned to the shop, his face covered with big
beads of perspiration, his hat gone and his eyes shining--and, without
a word, he went about the shop with his wonted air of swift-moving
silence. But the next day he was off again, and the next; and
Alcibiades grew accustomed to the long car slipping up and the
straight, slim figure sliding into it and taking its place and
disappearing down the street.
Where Achilles went on these excursions, or what he did, no one knew.
Promptly at two each day he returned--always dishevelled and alert,
but wearing a look of triumph that sat strangely on the quiet Greek
reserve. It could not be said that Achilles strutted as he walked, but
he had an air of confidence, as if he were seeing things--things far
ahead--that were coming to him on the long road.
The boys could not make him out . . . and their loyalty would not let
them question him. But one day Yaxis, resting on the parapet that
overlooked the lake, his cart drawn a little to one side, his hat off
and his face taking in the breeze, saw a strange sight. It was a wide
roadway, and free of traffic, and Yaxis had turned his head and looked
up and down its length. In the distance a car was coming--it was not
speeding. It seemed coming on with little foolish movements--halting
jerks and impatient honks. . . . Yaxis's eye rested on it bewildered--
then it broke to a smile. Father was driving! The chauffeur, beside
him, with folded arms and set face had washed his hands of all
responsibility--and the face of the Greek was shining. The great
machine swerved and balked and ran a little way and stopped--Yaxis
laughed softly. The chauffeur bent over with a word, and the thing
shot off, Achilles with intent back, holding fast by both hands his
face set and shining ahead. Up and down the roadway, the thing
zigzagged--back and forth--spitting a little and fizzing behind. Like
a great beast it snarled and snorted and stood out and waited the
lash--and came to terms, gliding at last, by a touch along the smooth
road--the face of Achilles transfigured in a dream. . . . The
Acropolis floated behind him in the haze. The wings of the morning
waited his coming and his hands gripped hard on the wheel of the
world. Yaxis watched the car as it flashed and floated in the sun and
was gone--down the roadway--around the distant corner--out of sight,
with its faint triumphant "honk-honk-honk!" trailing behind.
With a deep smile on his face Yaxis wheeled his cart into the roadway
and pushed briskly toward home, his mind filled with the vision of his
father and the flying car.
The next day coming down the steps of a house and counting slow
change, he looked up with a swift glance--something had passed him;
for a moment he had only a glimpse--something familiar--a kind of home
sense--then the figure of Achilles flashed out--the car shot round a
corner. He sped to the corner and looked down the long road--no one--
only two rows of poplars with their silvery, stirring leaves, and not
a soul in sight--and respectable houses on either side watching, as if
nothing had happened, or ever would. Yaxis returned to his cart,
wiping the fine moisture from his forehead. Every day now, his glance
travelled about him as he pushed his cart along the quieter streets
where his route lay. And often at the end of long vistas, or down a
side street, he caught a glimpse of the shooting car and the dark,
erect figure poised forward on its seat, looking far ahead.
At home, in the dusky interior, Achilles moved with sedate step, his
hair combed, his slim hands busy with the smooth fruit. Yaxis, in the
doorway, looked at him with curious, wistful eyes.
Achilles glanced up and nodded, and the little smile on his dark face
grew. He came forward. "You had good day?" he said.
"Yes, father. . . ." The boy hesitated a moment, and dug his toes--and
flung out his hands in quick gesture. "I see you!" he said. "You go in
Achilles's glance flashed and grew to a deep, still smile. "You see
that machine? You see me drive him? /I/ make that machine go!" His
chest expanded and he moved a few free steps and paused.
The boy's eyes rested on him proudly. Around them--out in the grimy
street--the world hurried and scuffled and honked; and in the little
back shop the father and the boy faced each other, a strange, new,
proud joy around them. "I drive that machine," said Achilles softly.
AND STARTS OFF
Achilles came to the door of the shop and looked out. A car had driven
up to the sidewalk--a rough, racing machine with open sides and big
wheels--and the driver, a big man in a white cap and rough linen suit,
was beckoning to him with his hand. Achilles stepped across the walk,
and stood by the machine with quiet, waiting face.
The man looked him over, a little as if he owned him--"I want some
fruit," he said quickly, "--oranges--grapes--anything--?" His glance
ran to the fruit on the stall. "Get me something quick--and don't be
all day--" His hand was fumbling for change.
"I get you best oranges," said Achilles. He snapped open a paper bag
and turned to the heaped-up fruit. Then his eye paused--a boy was
breaking through the crowd--hatless, breathless--and calling him with
Achilles sprang forward. "What is it, Alcie?" His eye was searching
the crowd, and his hand dropped to the boy's shoulder.
"There they are!" gasped the boy. "/There!/"
Achilles's eye gleamed--down the street, a little way off, a car was
wheeling out from the curb--gathering speed.
Achilles's eyes flashed on it . . . and swept the crowd--and came
The man in the white cap by the curb was swearing softly. He leaped
with two steps, from the panting car to the stall and began gathering
up oranges. "Here--" he said. Then he wheeled--and saw the Greek
fruit-dealer flashing off in a car--/his/ car. "Here--you!" he
But Achilles gave no heed--and the boy, urging him on from behind,
turned with swift smile--"He take your car--" he said, "he need that
But the white-capped man pounced upon him and shook him by the
shoulder--watching his car that was threading fast in the crowded
traffic. He dropped the boy, and his hand reached up, signalling
wildly for police--a city service car sprang from the ground, it
seemed. The white-capped man leaped in and they were off--honking the
crowd . . . heavy drays moved from before them with slow, eternal
wheel--the white cap swore softly and leaned forward and urged . . .
and the dark, Greek head bobbed far ahead--along in the crowd--the
big, grey racer gathering speed beneath. Achilles was not thinking of
the pursuit, yelling behind him--he had no thoughts--only two eyes
that held a car far in the distance, and two hands that gripped the
wheel and drove hard, and prayed grimly. If his eye lost that car! It
was turning now--far ahead and his eye marked the place and held it--
fixed. His car jolted and bumped. Men swore and made way before him,
and noted the hatless head, and looked behind--and saw the police car
--and yelled aloud. But no one saw him in time, and he was not
stopped. He had reached the corner where the car disappeared from
sight, and he leaned forward, with careful turn, peering around the
corner. They were there--yes! He drove faster--and the great, ugly car
lifted itself and flung forward and settled to long sliding gait. The
car ahead turned again in the whirling traffic--and turned again. But
Achilles's eye did not lose its track . . . and they were out in the
open at last--the plain stretching before them--no turn to left or
right--and the machine Achilles drove had no equal in the country. But
Achilles did not know his machine. Good or bad, it must serve him and
keep his men in sight--but not too near--not to frighten them! They
had turned now and were glancing back and they spoke quickly. Then
they looked again--at the flying and hatless head--and saw suddenly,
on behind it, the service car leap softly around the corner into the
white road. They looked again--and laughed. They turned and dropped
the matter. "Some damn fool with a stolen car."
AND RACES FOR THE CLUE
Under the great bowl of sky, in the midst of the plain, the three cars
held their level way--three little racing dots in the big, clear
place. They kept an even course, swaying to the race on level wings
that swept the ground and rose to the low swale and passed beyond.
Only the long free line of dust marked their flight under the sun.
The men at the front, in the car ahead, did not look back again. They
had lost interest in the race pressing behind--most anxiously, they
had lost interest in it. They wished, with a fervent wish, that the
two cars driving behind them should pass them in a swirl of dust--and
pass on out of sight--toward the far horizon line that stretched the
west. They were only two market gardeners returning from business in
the city. If they drove a good car, it was to save time going and
coming--not to race with escaping fugitives and excited police. They
had no wish to race with excited police--fervently they had no wish
for it--and they slackened speed a little, drawing freer breath. Let
the fellow pass them--and his police with him--before they reached a
little, white, peaceful house that stood ahead on the plain. They did
not look behind at justice pursuing its prey . . . they had lost all
interest in justice and in the race. Presently, when justice should
pass them, on full-spreading wing, they would look up with casual
glance, and note its flight over the far line--out of sight in the
distant west. But now they did not know of its existence.
And Achilles, pressing fast, had a quick, clear sense of mystery--
something that brooded ahead--on the shining plain and the little,
white house and the car before him slackening speed. /Why/ should it
slow down?--what was up? Cautiously he held his car, slowing its
waving gleam to the pace ahead and darting a swift glance behind, over
his shoulder, at the great service car that leaped and gained on him
lap by lap. It would overtake him soon--and he /must/ not pass the car
ahead--not till he saw what they were up to. Would they pass that
little white house--on the plain--or would they turn in there? The
wind hummed in his ears--his hair flew--and his hand held tense to the
wheel--slowing it cautiously, inch by inch--slackening a little--
slackening again with quick-flung, flashing glance behind--and a
watchful eye on the road ahead . . . and on the little white house
drawing near on the plain. It was a race now between his quick mind
and that car ahead and the little white house. He must not overtake
them till the little house was reached. The car behind must not touch
him--not till the house came up. There was a wood ahead, in the
distance--his mind flew and circled the wood--and came back. They had
reached the little house asleep in the sun. They were passing it, neck
and neck, and the car beside him swerved a little and slackened speed
--and dived in at the white gate. Achilles shot past--the free road
ahead. The machine under him gathered speed and opened out and laughed
and leaped to the road and lay down in the thick dust, spreading
itself ahead. He could gain the wood. He should escape--and the clue
Behind him, the service car thundered by the little house asleep. But
the police did not glance that way--nor did the big, white-capped man
glance that way. /His/ eyes were fixed on the racer ahead--dwindling
to a speck in its cloud of dust. He pushed up his visor and laughed
aloud. "Give it up!" he said genially, "give it up!--you can't catch
/that/ car!--I know my own car, I guess!" He laughed again. "We shall
find it somewhere along the road--when he is through with it!"
But the face beside him, turning in the clouding dust, had a keen look
and the car kept its unbroken speed, and the plain flashed by. "He's
in too big a hurry--" said the driver sternly. "I want a look at that
man! He knows too much."
Too much! The heart of Achilles sang again--all the heart of him woke
up and laughed to the miles. He had found his clue--he had passed the
little hundred-thousand-dollar house, and the police in their big,
bungling dust had passed it, too. Nobody knew--but him . . . and he
should escape--over the long road . . . with the big machine, under
him, pounding away.
THE LITTLE WHITE HOUSE
In an angle of the wood the dust-covered policeman and the white-
capped man came upon the racer, turned a little from the road, and
waiting their arrival. It had a stolid, helpless look--with its nose
buried deep in underbrush and the hind wheels tilted a little in air.
Once might almost fancy it gave a little, subdued hiccough, as they
The white-capped man bent above it and ran a quick hand along the
side, and leaped to the vacant seat. The beast beneath gave a little
snort and withdrew its nose and pranced playfully at the underbrush
and backed away, feeling for firm ground behind. The man at the wheel
pressed hard, leaning--with quick jerk--and wheels gripped ground and
trundled in the road. It stopped beside the service car and the two
men gazed doubtfully at the wood. Dusty leaves trembled at them in the
light air, and beckoned to them--little twigs laced across and shut
them out. Anywhere in the dark coolness of the wood, the Greek lurked,
hiding away. They could not trace him--and the wood reached far into
the dusk. He was undoubtedly armed. Only a desperate man would have
made a dash like that--for life. Better go back to town for
reinforcements and send the word of his escape along the line. He
would not get far--on foot! They gave another glance at the wood and
loosed their cars to the road, gliding smoothly off. The wood behind
them, under its cover of dust, gave no sign of watching eyes; and the
sun, travelling toward the west, cast their long, clean shadows ahead
as they went. In the low light, the little, white house in the
distance had a rosy, moody look. As they drew nearer, little pink
details flashed out. An old man behind the picket fence looked up, and
straightened himself, and gazed--under a shading hand. Then he came
along the driveway and stood in the white gate, waiting their
approach. He had a red, guileless face and white hair. The face held a
look of childish interest as they drew up. "You got him?" he asked.
The service man shook his head, jerking his thumb at the racer that
came behind. "Got the car," he said. "He got off--took to the woods."
"That so?" The old man came out to the road and looked with curious
eyes at the big racing-machine coming up. "What'd he do?" he asked.
"He stole my machine," said the white-capped man quickly. He was
holding the wheel with a careful touch.
The old man looked at him with shrewd, smiling eyes--chewing at some
invisible cud. The service man nodded to him, "There'll be a reward
out for him, Jimmie--keep a watch out. You may have a chance at it.
He's hiding somewhere over there." He motioned toward the distant
The old man turned a slow eye toward the west. "I don't own no
telescope," he said quaintly. He shifted the cud a little, and gazed
at the plain around them--far as the eye could see, it stretched on
every side. Only the little, white house stood comfortably in its
midst--open to the eye of heaven. It was a rambling, one story and a
half house, with no windows above the ground floor--except at the
rear, where one window, under a small peak, faced the north. Beyond
the house, in that direction, lay lines of market garden--and beyond
the garden the wide plain. Two men, at work in the garden, hoed with
long, easy strokes that lengthened in the slanting light. The service
man looked at them with casual eye. "Got good help this year?" he
The old man faced about, and his eye regarded them mildly. "Putty
good," he said, "they're my sister's boys. She died this last year--
along in April--and they come on to help. Yes, they work putty good."
"They drove in ahead of us, didn't they?" asked the service man, with
The old man smiled drily. "Didn't know's you see 'em. You were so
occupied. Yes--they'd been in to sell the early potatoes. I've got a
putty good crop this year--early potatoes. They went in to make a
price on 'em. We'll get seventy-five if we take 'em in to-morrow--and
they asked what to do--and I told 'em they better dig." He chuckled
The service man smiled. "You keep 'em moving, don't you, Jimmie!" He
glanced at the house. "Any trade? Got a license this year?"
The old man shook his head. "Bone dry," he said, chewing slowly. "Them
cars knocked /me/ out!" He came and stood by the racer, running his
hand along it with childish touch.
The service man watched him with detached smile. The old man's silly
shrewdness amused him. He suspected him of a cask or two in the
cellar. In the days of bicycles the old man had driven a lively trade;
but with the long-reaching cars, his business dribbled away, and he
had slipped back from whiskey to potatoes. He was a little disgruntled
at events, and would talk socialism by the hour to anyone who would
listen. But he was a harmless old soul. The service man glanced at the
sun. It had dipped suddenly, and the plain grew dusky black. The
distant figures hoeing against the plain were lost to sight. "Hallo!"
said the service man quickly, "we must get on--" He looked again,
shrewdly, toward the old man in the dusk. "You couldn't find a drop of
anything, handy--to give away--Jimmie?" he suggested.
The old man tottered a slow smile at him and moved toward the house.
He came back with a long-necked bottle grasped tight, and a couple of
glasses that he filled in the dimness.
The service man held up his glass with quick gesture--"Here's to you,
Jimmie!" he said, throwing back his head. "May you live long, and
prosper!" He gulped it down.
The old man's toothless smile received the empty glasses; and when the
two machines had trundled away in the dimness, it stood looking after
them--the deep smile of guileless, crafty old age--that suffers and
waits--and clutches its morsel at last and fastens on it--without joy,
and without shame.
INSIDE THE LITTLE HOUSE
The two figures amid the rows of the marked garden paused, in the
enveloping dusk, and leaned on their hoes, and listened--a low,
peevish whistle, like the call of a night-jar, on the plain, came to
them. Presently the call repeated itself--three wavering notes--and
they shouldered their hoes and moved toward the little house.
The old man emerged from the gloom, coming toward them. "What was it?"
asked one of the figures quickly.
The old man chuckled. "Stole a racer--that's about all /they/ knew--
/you/ got off easy!" He was peering toward them.
The larger of the two figures straightened itself. "I am sick of it--I
tell you!--my back's broke!" He moved himself in the dusk, stretching
out his great arms and looking about him vaguely.
The old man eyed him shrewdly. "You're earning a good pile," he said.
"Yes, one-seventy-five a day!" The man laughed a little.
The other man had not spoken. He slipped forward through the dusk.
"Supper ready?" he asked.
They followed him into the house, stopping in an entry to wash their
hands and remove their heavy shoes. Through the door opening to a room
beyond, a woman could be seen, moving briskly, and the smell of
cooking floated out. They sniffed at it hungrily.
The woman came to the door. "Hurry up, boys--everything's done to
They came in hastily, with half-dried hands, and she looked at them--a
laugh in her round, keen face. "You /have/ had a day!" she said. She
was tall and angular, and her face had a sudden roundness--a kind of
motherly, Dutch doll, set on its high, lean frame. Her body moved in
She heaped up the plates with quick hands, and watched the men while
they ate. For a time no one spoke. The old man went to the cellar and
brought up a great mug of beer, and they filled their pipes and sat
smoking and sipping the beer stolidly. The windows were open to the
air and the shades were up. Any one passing on the long road, over the
plain, might look in on them. The woman toasted a piece of bread and
moistened it with a little milk and put it, with a glass of milk, on a
small tray. The men's eyes followed her, indifferent. They watched her
lift the tray and carry it to a door at the back of the room, and
They smoked on in silence.
The old man reached out for his glass. He lifted it. "Two weeks--and
three more days," he said. He sipped the beer slowly.
The larger of the two men nodded. He had dark, regular features and
reddish hair. He looked heavy and tired. He opened his lips vaguely.
"Don't talk here!" said the younger man sharply--and he gave a quick
glance at the room--as a weasel returns to cover, in a narrow place.
The big man smiled. "I wa'n't going to say anything."
"Better not!" said the other. He cleared his pipe with his little
finger. "/I/ don't even think," he added softly.
The woman had come back with the tray and the men looked up, smoking.
She set the tray down by the sink and came over to them, standing with
both hands on her high hips. She regarded them gravely and glanced at
the tray. The milk and toast were untouched.
The old man removed his pipe and looked at her plaintively. "Can't ye
/make/ her, Lena?" he said. His high voice had a shrill note.
She shook her head. "/I/ can't do anything--not anything more."
She moved away and began to gather up the dishes from the table,
clearing it with swift jerks. She paused a moment and leaned over--the
platter in her hand half-lifted from its place. "She needs the air,"
she said, "and to run about--she's sick--shut up like that!" She
lifted the platter and carried it to the sink, a troubled look in her
eyes. "I won't be responsible for her--not much longer," she said
slowly, as she set it down, "not if she doesn't get down in the air."
The men looked at each other in silence. The old man got up. "Time to
go to bed--" he said slowly.
They filed out of the room. The woman's eyes followed them. Presently
the door opened and the younger man returned, with soft, quick steps.
He looked at her. "I want to talk," he said.
"In a minute," she replied. She nodded toward the cellar. "The
lantern's down there--you go along."
He opened the door and stepped cautiously into blackness, and she
heard a quick, scratching match on the plaster behind the closed door,
and his feet descending the stairs.
She drew forward the kettle on the stove and replenished the fire, and
blew out the hand lamp on the table. Then she groped her way to the
cellar door, opening it with noiseless touch.
The young man waited below, impatient. On a huge barrel near by, the
lantern cast a yellow circle on the blackness.
The woman approached it, her high-stepping figure flung in shadowy
movement along the wall behind her.
"You can't back out /now/!" He spoke quickly. "You're weakening! And
you've got to brace up--do you hear?"
The woman's round face smiled--over the light on the barrel. "/I'm/
all right," she said. She hesitated a minute. . . . "It's the child
that's not all right," she added slowly. "And tonight I got scared--
yes--" She waited a breath.
"What's the matter?" he said roughly.
She waited again. "She wasn't like flesh and blood to-night," she said
slowly. "I felt as if a breath would blow her out--" She drew her hand
quickly across her eyes. "I've got fond of the little thing, John--I
can't seem to have her hurt!"
"Who's hurting her?" said the man sharply. "/You/ take care of her--
and she's all right."
"I can't, John. She needs the outdoors. She's like a little bird up
"Then let her out--" said the man savagely. "Let her out--up there!"
His lifted hand pointed to the plain about them--in open scorn. He
leaned forward and spoke more persuasively, close to her ear--"We
can't back out now--" he said, "/the child knows too much/!" He gave
the barrel beside them a significant tap. "We couldn't use /this/
plant again--six years--digging it--and waiting and starving!" He
struck the barrel sharply. "I tell you we've /got/ to put it through!
You keep her out of sight!"
"Her own mother wouldn't know her--" said the woman slowly.
He met the look--and waited.
"I tell you, I've done everything," she said with quick passion. "I've
fed her and amused her and told her stories--I don't /dare/ keep her
any longer!" She touched the barrel beside them--"I tell you, you
might as well put her under that. . . . You'll put her under for good
--if you don't look out!" she said significantly.
"All right," said the man sullenly, "what do you want?"
She was smiling again--the round, keen smile, on its high frame. "Let
her breathe a bit--like a child--and run out in the sun. The sun will
cure her!" she added quickly.
"All right--if you take the risk--a hundred-thousand-dollars--and your
own daughter thrown to the devil--if we lose--! . . . You know
"I know that, John--I want the money--more than you want it!" She
spoke with quick, fierce loyalty. "I'd give my life for Mollie--or to
keep her straight--but I can't kill a child to keep her straight--not
/this/ child--to keep her straight!" Her queer, round face worked,
against the yellow light.
He looked at it, half contemptuously, and turned to the barrel.
"See if everything's all right," he said. "If we're going to take
risks--we've got to be ready."
The woman lifted the lantern, and he pushed against the barrel. It
yielded to his weight--the upper part turning slowly on a pivot.
Something inside swashed against the sides as it turned. The man bent
over the hole and peered in. He stepped down cautiously, feeling with
his foot and disappearing, inch by inch, into the opening. The woman
held the light above him, looking down with quick, tense eyes . . . a
hand reached up to her, out of the hole, beckoning for the lantern and
she knelt down, guiding it toward the waving fingers. A sound of
something creaking--a hinge half turned--caught her breath--and she
leaned forward, blowing at the lantern. She got quickly to her feet
and groped for the swinging barrel, turning it swiftly over the hole--
the liquid chugged softly against its side--and stopped. Her breath
listened up into the darkness. The door above creaked again softly--
and a shuffling foot groped at the stair. "You down there--Lena?"
called an old voice.
She laughed out softly, moving toward the stair. "Go to bed, father."
"What you doing down there?" asked the old voice in the darkness.
"Testing the barrel," said the woman. "John's gone down." She came to
the foot of the stair. "You go to bed, father--"
"/You/ better come to bed--all of ye," grumbled the old man.
"We're coming--in a minute." She heard his hand fumble at the door--
and it creaked again--softly--and closed.
She groped her way back to the barrel, waiting beside it in the
When the man's head reappeared, he came up briskly.
"All right?" she asked.
"All right," he responded.
"Did you test the other end?"
"Right enough--" said the man. "Safe as a church! The water barrel in
the garden stuck a little--but I eased it up--" He looked back into
the hole, as he stepped out. "Too bad we had to take /her/ down," he
"The police /might/ 'a' stopped," said the woman. "You couldn't tell."
They swung the barrel in place, and blew out the lantern, and the man
ascended the stair. After a few minutes the woman came up. The kitchen
was empty. The fire burning briskly cast a line of light beneath the
hearth, and on the top of the stove the kettle hummed quietly. She
lighted a lamp and lifted the kettle, filling her dishpan with soft
steam. . . . Any one peering in at the open window would have seen
only a tall woman, with high shoulders, bending above her cloud of
steam and washing dishes, with a quiet, round face absorbed in
When she had finished at the sink and tidied the room, she took the
lamp and went into the small hall at the rear, and mounted the steep
stairs. At the top she paused and fitted a key and entered a low room.
She put down the lamp and crossed to the door on the other side--and
listened. The sound of low breathing came lightly to her, and her face
relaxed. She came back to the bureau, looking down thoughtfully at the
coarse towel that covered it, and the brush and comb and tray of
matches. There was nothing else on the bureau. But on a little bracket
at the side the picture of a young girl, with loose, full lips and
bright eyes, looked out from a great halo of pompadour--with the half-
wistful look of youth. The mother's eyes returned to the picture and
her keen face softened. . . . She must save Mollie--and the child in
the next room--she must save them both. . . . She listened to the
child again, breathing beyond the open door. She looked again at the
picture, with hungry eyes. Her own child--her Mollie--had never had a
chance--she had loved gay things--and there was no money--always hard
work and wet feet and rough, pushing cars. . . . No wonder she had
gone wrong! But she would come back now. There would be money enough--
and they would go away--together. Twenty-five thousand dollars. She
looked long at the pitiful, weak, pictured face and blew out the light
and crept into bed. . . . And in the next room the child's even
breathing came and went . . . and, at intervals, across it in the
darkness, another sound--the woman's quick, indrawn breath that could
In the morning the woman was up with the first light. And as the men
came grumbling in to breakfast, the round face wore its placid smile.
They joked her and ate hastily and departed for the open field. It was
part of a steady policy--to be always in the open, busy, hard-working
men who could not afford to lose an hour. The excursion had been a
quick, restless revolt--against weeks of weeding and planting and
digging. . . . But they had had their lesson. They were not likely to
stir from their strip of market garden on the plain--not till the time
As the woman went about her work, she listened, and stopped and went
to the door--for some sound from upstairs. Presently she went up and
opened the door . . . and looked in.
The child lay with one hand thrown above her head--a drawn look in the
softly arched brow and half-parted lips. The woman bent over her,
listening--and placed her hand on the small wrist and counted--
waiting. The eyes flashed open--and looked at her. "I thought you were
Nono," said the child. A wistful look filled her face and her lip
quivered a little--out of it--and steadied itself. "You are Mrs.
Seabury," she said quietly.
"Yes," said the woman cheerfully. "Time to get up, dearie." She turned
away and busied herself with the clothes hanging from their hooks.
The child's eyes followed her--dully. "I don't think I care to get
up," she said at last.
The woman brought the clothes and placed them by the bed, and smiled
down at her. "There's something nice to-day," she said casually.
"We're going outdoors to-day--"
"/Can/ I?" said the child. She flashed a smile and sat up. "Can /I/ go
out-of-doors?" It was a little cry of waiting--and the woman's hand
dashed across her eyes--at the keenness of it. Then she smiled--the
round, assuring smile, and held up the clothes. "You hurry up and
dress and eat your breakfast," she said, "--a good, big breakfast--and
we are going--out in the sun--you and me." She nodded cheerfully and
The child put one foot over the edge of the bed and looked down at it
--a little wistfully--and placed the other beside it. They were very
dark, little feet--a queer, brown colour--and the legs above them,
were the same curious brown--and the small straight back--as she
stepped from the bed and slipped off her nightgown and bent above the
clothes on the chair. The colour ran up to her throat--around it, and
over the whole sunny face and hands and arms--a strange, eclipsing,
brown disguise. There had been a quick, sharp plan to take her abroad
and they prepared her hastily against risks on board the steamer. The
plan had been abandoned as too dangerous. But the colour clung to the
soft skin; and the hair, cropped close to the neck, had a stubby,
uncouth look. No one seeking Betty Harris, would have looked twice at
the queer, little, brownie-like creature, dressing itself with careful
haste. It lifted a plaid dress from the chair--large squares of red
and green plaid--and looked at it with raised brows and dropped it
over the cropped head. The skirt came to the top of the rough shoes on
the small feet. Betty Harris looked down at the skirt--and smoothed it
a little . . . and dropped on her knees beside the bed--the red and
green plaids sweeping around her--and said the little prayer that Miss
Stone had taught her to say at home.
A BUTTERFLY FLIGHT
She came down the stairs with slow feet, pausing a little on each
stair, as if to taste the pleasure that was coming to her. /She was
going out-of-doors--under the sky!/
She pushed open the door at the foot and looked into the small hall--
she had been here before. They had hurried her through--into the
kitchen, and down to the cellar. They had stayed there a long time--
hours and hours--and Mrs. Seabury had held her on her lap and told her
She stepped down the last step into the hall. The outside door at the
end was open and through it she could see the men at work in the
garden--and the warm, shimmering air. She looked, with eager lip, and
took a step forward--and remembered--and turned toward the kitchen.
Mrs. Seabury had said she must have breakfast first--a good, big
breakfast--and then. . . . She opened the door and looked in. The
woman was standing by the stove. She looked up with a swift glance and
nodded to her. "That's right, dearie. Your breakfast is all ready--you
come in and eat it." She drew up a chair to the table and brought a
glass of milk and tucked the napkin under her brown chin, watching her
with keen, motherly eyes, while she ate.
"That's a good girl!" she said. She took the empty plate and carried
it to the sink. "Now you wait till I've washed these--and then--!" She
nodded toward the open window.
The child slipped down and came over to her and stood beside her while
she worked, her eyes full of little, wistful hope. "I've most forgot
about out-of-doors," she said.
"Oh, you remember it all right. It's just the same it always was,"
said the woman practically. "Now I'll stir up some meal and we'll go
feed the chicks. I've got ten of 'em--little ones." She mixed the
yellow meal and stirred it briskly, and took down her sun-bonnet--and
looked at the child dubiously. "You haven't any hat," she said.
The child's hand lifted to the rough cropped hair. "I did have a hat--
with red cherries on it," she suggested.
The woman turned away brusquely. "That's gone--with your other things
--I'll have to tie a handkerchief on you."
She brought a big, coloured kerchief--red with blue spots on it--and
bound it over the rough hair--and stood back and looked at it, and
reached out her hand. "It won't do," she said thoughtfully. The small
face, outlined in the smooth folds, had looked suddenly and strangely
refined. The woman took off the handkerchief and roughened the hair
with careful hand.
The child waited patiently. "I don't need a hat, do I?" she said
The woman looked at her again and took up the dish of meal. "You're
all right," she said, "we shan't stay long."
"I should /like/ to stay a long, /long/ time!" said Betty.
The woman smiled. "You're going out every day, you know."
"Yes." The child skipped a little in the clumsy shoes, and they passed
into the sunshine.
The woman looked about her with practical eyes. In the long rows of
the garden the men were at work. But up and down the dusty road--
across the plain--no one was in sight, and she stepped briskly toward
an open shed, rapping the spoon a little against the side of the basin
she carried, and clucking gently.
The child beside her moved slowly--looking up at the sky, as if half
afraid. She seemed to move with alien feet under the sky. Then a
handful of yellow, downy balls darted from the shed, skittering toward
them, and she fell to her knees, reaching out her hands to them and
crooning softly. "The dear things!" she said swiftly.
The woman smiled, and moved toward the shed, tapping on the side of
her pan--and the yellow brood wheeled with the sound, on twinkling
legs and swift, stubby wings.
The child's eyes devoured them. "They belong to you, don't they?" she
cried softly. "They're your /own/--your very own chickens!" Her laugh
crept over them and her eyes glowed. "See the little one, Mrs.
Seabury! Just /see/ him run!" She had dropped to her knees again--
breathless--beside the board where they pushed and pecked and gobbled
the little, wet lumps of the meal, and darted their shiny black bills
at the board.
The woman handed her the pan. "You can feed them if you want to," she
The child took the basin, with shining eyes, and the woman moved away.
She examined the slatted box--where the mother hen ran to and fro,
with clucking wings--and gave her some fresh water and looked in the
row of nests along the side of the shed, and took out a handful of
eggs, carrying them in wide-spread, careful fingers.
The child, squatting by the board, was looking about her with happy
eyes. She'd almost forgotten the prisoned room up stairs and the long
lonesome days. The woman came over to her, smiling. "I've found
seven," she said. The child's eyes rested on them. Then they flitted
to the sunshine outside. . . . A yellow butterfly was fluttering in
the light--across the opening of the shed. It lighted on a beam and
opened slow wings, and the child's eyes laughed softly . . . she moved
tiptoe . . . "I saw a /beautiful/ butterfly once!" she said. But the
woman did not hear. She had passed out of the shed--around the corner
--and was looking after the chickens outside--her voice clucking to
them lightly. The child moved toward the butterfly, absorbed in
shining thought. "It was a /beautiful/ butterfly--" she said softly,
"in a Greek shop." The wings of the butterfly rose and circled vaguely
and passed behind her, and she wheeled about, peering up into the dark
shed. She saw the yellow wings--up there--poise themselves, and wait a
minute--and sail toward the light outside. . . . But she did not turn
to follow its flight-- Across the brown boards of the shed--behind a
pile of lumber, against the wall up there--a head had lifted itself
and was looking at her. She caught her breath--"I saw a butterfly
once!" she repeated dully. It was half a sob-- The head laid a long,
dark finger on its lip and sank from sight. . . . The child wheeled
toward the open light--the woman was coming in, her hands filled with
eggs. "I must carry these in," she said briskly. She looked at the
child. "You can stay and play a little while--if you want to. But you
must not go away, you know."
"I will not go away," said the child, breathless.
So the woman turned and left her--and the child's eyes followed her.
AND A VOICE
"Can you hear me, little Miss Harris?" The voice came from the dusky
shed, high up against the wall.
But the child did not turn her head. "Yes--Mr. Achilles--I can hear
you very well," she said softly.
"Don't look this way," said the voice. "Get down and look at the
chickens--and listen to what I tell you."
The child dropped obediently to her knees, her head a little bent, her
face toward the open light outside.
The woman, going about her work in the kitchen, looked out and saw her
and nodded to her kindly--
The child's lips made a little smile in return. They were very pale.
"I come to take you home," said the voice. It was full of tenderness
and Betty Harris bent her head, a great wave of homesickness sweeping
"I can't go, Mr. Achilles." It was like a sob. "I can't go. They will
kill you. I heard them. They will kill /anybody/--that comes--!" She
spoke in swift little whispers--and waited. "Can you hear me say it?"
she asked. "Can you hear me say it, Mr. Achilles?"
"I hear it--yes." The voice of Achilles laughed a little. "They will
not kill--little lady, and you go home--with me--to-night." The voice
dropped down from its high place and comforted her.
She reached out little hands to the chickens and laughed tremulously.
"I am afraid," she said softly, "I am afraid!"
But the low voice, up in the dusk, steadied her and gave her swift
commands--and repeated them--till she crept from the dim shed into the
light and stood up--blinking a little--and looked about her--and
And the woman came to the door and smiled at her. "You must come in,"
"Yes--Mrs. Seabury--" The child darted back into the shed and gathered
up the spoon and basin from the board and looked about her swiftly. In
the slatted box, the mother hen clucked drowsily, and wise cheeps from
beneath her wings answered bravely. The child glanced at the box, and
up at the dusky boards of the shed, peering far in the dimness. But
there was no one--not even a voice--just the high, tumbled pile of
boards--and the few nests along the wall and the mother hen clucking
cosily behind her slats--and the wise little cheeps.
"WAKE UP, MRS. SEABURY!"
The child lay with her hands clasped, breathing lightly. The sound of
voices came drowsily from the kitchen . . . she must not go to sleep!
She sat up and leaned toward the little window that looked out to the
north. Through the blackness the stars twinkled mistily, and she put
her foot carefully over the edge of the bed and slipped down. The
window was open--as far as the small sash allowed--and a warm, faint
breeze came across the plain to her. She leaned against the sill,
looking out. It was not far to the ground. . . . But she could see
only vague blackness down there, and she looked again up to the
twinkling stars. . . . They were little points of light up there, and
she looked up trustfully while the warm wind blew against her. Her
heart was beating very hard--and fast--but she was not afraid. . . .
Mr. Achilles had said--not to be afraid--and he was waiting--down
there in the blackness to take her home. She crept back to bed and lay
down--very still. In the room below there was a scraping of chairs and
louder words--and footsteps. . . . Someone had opened the door under
her window and the smell of tobacco came up. Her little nose disdained
it--and listened, alert. Footsteps went out into the night and moved a
little away on the gravel and came back, and the door closed. She
could hear the bolt click to its place and the footsteps shuffle along
the hall. The voices below had ceased and the house was still--she was
very sleepy now. But he had said--Mr. Achilles had said. . . . She
winked briskly and gave herself a little pinch under the clothes--and
sat up. It was a sharp little pinch--through many thicknesses of
clothes. Under the coarse nightgown buttoned carefully to the throat,
she was still wearing the red and green plaids and all her day
clothes. Only the clumsy shoes, slipped off, stood by the bed, waiting
for her. Her hand reached down to them cautiously, and felt them--and
she lay down and closed her eyes. There was a step on the stairs--
coming slowly. Betty Harris grew very still. If Mrs. Seabury came in
and stood and looked at her . . . she must cry out--and throw her arms