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Murder in Any Degree by Owen Johnson

Part 3 out of 5

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in my eyes--I may swear to you that nothing but honesty counts between
us, that I can understand, forgive, forget everything. Well, whatever I
say or do, never, never let me know--if you value my happiness, my peace
of mind, my life even!"

She laid her hand on his lips and then on his forehead to calm him,
drawing his head to her shoulder.

"Listen, Ben," she said, gently. "I, the Madeleine Conti who loves you,
am another being. I adore you so that I shall hate all other men, as you
will hate all other women. There will never be the slightest deceit or
infidelity between us. Ask any questions of me at any time. I know there
can be from now on but one answer. Have no fear. Do not tire yourself
in a senseless fever. There is so little time left. I love you."

Never had he heard her voice so deep with sincerity and tenderness, and
yet, as he surrendered to the touch of her soft hands, yielding up all
his doubts, he was conscious of a new alarm creeping into his heart;
and, dissatisfied with what he himself had a moment before implored, in
the breath with which he whispered, "I believe you," he said to himself:

"Does she say that because she believes it or has she begun to lie?"

II

For seven years they lived the same existence, separated sometimes for
three months, occasionally for six, and once because of a trip taken to
South America for nearly a year.

The first time that he joined her, after five months of longing, he
remained a week without crying out the words that were heavy on his
heart. One day she said to him:

"What is there--back of your eyes, hidden away, that you are stifling?"

"You know," he blurted out.

"What?"

"Ah, I have tried not to say it, to live it down. I can't--it's beyond
me. I shall have no peace until it is said."

"Then say it."

He took her face in his two hands and looked into her eyes.

"Since I have been away," he said brutally, "there has been no one else
in your heart? You have been true to me, to our love?"

"I have been true," she answered with a little smile.

He held his eyes on hers a long while, hesitating whether to be silent
or to continue, and then, all at once, convinced, burst into tears and
begged her pardon.

"Oh, I shouldn't have asked it--forgive me."

"Do whatever is easiest for you, my love," she answered. "There is
nothing to forgive. I understand all. I love you for it."

Only she never asked him any questions, and that alarmed him.

The second time report had coupled her name with a Gabriel Lombardi, a
great baritone with whom she was appearing. When he arrived, as soon as
they were alone, he swung her about in his arms and cried in a strangled
voice:

"Swear to me that you have been faithful."

"I swear."

"Gabriel Lombardi"?

"I can't abide him".

"Ah, if I had never told you to lie to me--fool that I was."

Then she said calmly, with that deep conviction which always moved him:
"Ben, when you asked me that, I told you I would never lie. I have told
you the truth. No man has ever had the pressure of my fingers, and no
man ever will."

So intense had been his emotion that he had almost a paroxysm. When he
opened his eyes he found her face wet with tears.

"Ah, Madeleine," he said, "I am brutal with you. I cannot help it."

"I would not have you love me differently," she said gently, and through
her tears he seemed to see a faint, elusive smile, that was gone quickly
if it was ever there at all.

Another time, he said to himself: "No, I will say nothing. She will come
to me herself, put her arms around me, and tell me with a smile that no
other thought has been in her heart all this while. That's it. If I wait
she will make the move, she will make the move each time--and that will
be much better."

He waited three days, but she made no allusion. He waited another, and
then he said lightly:

"You see, I am reforming."

"How so?"

"Why, I don't ask foolish questions any more."

"That's so."

"Still--"

"Well?" she said, looking up.

"Still, you might have guessed what I wanted," he answered, a little
hurt.

She rose quickly and came lightly to him, putting her hand on his
shoulder.

"Is that what you wish?" she said.

"Yes."

She repeated slowly her protestations and when she had ended, said,
"Take me in your arms--hurt me."

"Now she will understand," he thought; "the next time she will not
wait."

But each time, though he martyrized his soul in patience, he was forced
to bring up the question that would not let him rest.

He could not understand why she did not save him this useless agony.
Sometimes when he wanted to find an excuse he said to himself it was
because she felt humiliated that he should still doubt. At other times,
he stumbled on explanations that terrified him. Then he remembered with
bitterness the promise that he had exacted from her, a promise that,
instead of bringing him peace, had left only an endless torment, and
forgetting all his protestations he would cry to himself, in a cold
perspiration:

"Ah, if she is really lying, how can I ever be sure?"

III

In the eighth year, Madeleine Conti retired from the stage and announced
her marriage. After five years of complete happiness she was taken
suddenly ill, as the result of exposure to a drenching storm. One
afternoon, as he waited by her bedside, talking in broken tones of all
that they had been to each other, he said to her in a voice that he
tried nervously to school to quietness:

"Madeleine, you know that our life together has been without the
slightest shadow from the first. You know we have proved to each other
how immense our love has been. In all these years I have grown in
maturity and understanding. I regret only one thing, and I have
regretted it bitterly, every day--that I once asked you, if--if ever for
a moment another man came into your life to hide it from me, to tell me
a lie. It was a great mistake. I have never ceased to regret it. Our
love has been so above all worldly things that there ought not to be the
slightest concealment between us. I release you from that promise. Tell
me now the truth. It will mean nothing to me. During the eight years
when we were separated there were--there must have been times, times of
loneliness, of weakness, when other men came into your life. Weren't
there?"

She turned and looked at him steadily, her large eyes seeming larger and
more brilliant from the heightened fever of her cheeks. Then she made a
little negative sign of her head, still looking at him.

"No, never."

"You don't understand, Madeleine," he said, dissatisfied, "or you are
still thinking of what I said to you there in Etretat. That was thirteen
years ago. Then I had just begun to love you, I feared for the future,
for everything. Now I have tested you, and I have never had a doubt. I
know the difference between the flesh and the spirit. I know your two
selves; I know how impossible it would have been otherwise. Now you can
tell me."

"There is nothing--to tell," she said slowly.

"I expected that you would have other men who loved you about you," he
said, feverishly. "I knew it would be so. I swear to you I expected it.
I know why you continue to deny it. It's for my sake, isn't it? I love
you for it. But, believe me, in such a moment there ought nothing to
stand between us. Madeleine, Madeleine, I beg you, tell me the truth."

She continued to gaze at him fixedly, without turning away her great
eyes, as forgetting himself, he rushed on:

"Yes, let me know the truth--that will be nothing now. Besides, I have
guessed it. Only I must know one way or the other. All these years I
have lived in doubt. You see what it means to me. You must understand
what is due me after all our life together. Madeleine, did you lie to
me?"

"No."

"Listen," he said, desperately. "You never asked me the same
question--why, I never understood--but if you had questioned me I could
not have answered truthfully what you did. There, you see, there is no
longer the slightest reason why you should not speak the truth."

She half closed her eyes--wearily.

"I have told--the truth."

"Ah, I can't believe it," he cried, carried away. "Oh, cursed day when I
told you what I did. It's that which tortures me. You adore me--you
don't wish to hurt me, to leave a wound behind, but I swear to you if
you told me the truth I should feel a great weight taken from my heart,
a weight that has been here all these years. I should know that every
corner of your soul had been shown to me, nothing withheld. I should
know absolutely, Madeleine, believe me, when I tell you this, when I
tell you I must know. Every day of my life I have paid the penalty, I
have suffered the doubts of the damned, I have never known an hour's
peace! I beg you, I implore you, only let me know the truth; the
truth--I must know the truth!"

He stopped suddenly, trembling all over, and held out his hands to her,
his face lashed with suffering.

"I have not lied," she said slowly, after a long study. She raised her
eyes, feebly made the sign of the cross, and whispered, "I swear it."

Then he no longer held in his tears. He dropped his head, and his body
shook with sobs, while from time to time he repeated, "Thank God, thank
God."

IV

The next day Madeleine Conti had a sudden turn for the worse, which
surprised the attendants. Doctor Kimball, the American, doctor, and Pere
Francois, who had administered the last rites, were walking together in
the little formal garden, where the sun flung short, brilliant shadows
of scattered foliage about them.

"She was an extraordinary artist and her life was more extraordinary,"
said Dr. Kimball. "I heard her debut at the Opera Comique. For ten years
her name was the gossip of all Europe. Then all at once she meets a man
whom no one knows, falls in love, and is transformed. These women are
really extraordinary examples of hysteria. Each time I know one it makes
me understand the scientific phenomenon of Mary Magdalene. It is really
a case of nerve reaction. The moral fever that is the fiercest burns
itself out the quickest and seems to leave no trace behind. In this case
love came also as a religious conversion. I should say the phenomena
were identical."

"She was happy," said the cure, turning to go.

"Yes, it was a great romance."

"A rare one. She adored him. Love is a tide that cleanses all."

"Yet she was of the stage up to the last. You know she would not have
her husband in the room at the end."

"She had a great heart," said the cure quietly. "She wished to spare
him that suffering."

"She had an extraordinary will," said the doctor, glancing at him
quickly. He added, tentatively: "She asked two questions that were
curious enough."

"Indeed," said the cure, lingering a moment with his hand on the gate.

"She wanted to know whether persons in a delirium talked of the past and
if after death the face returned to its calm."

"What did you say to her about the effects of delirium?" said the cure
with his blank face.

"That it was a point difficult to decide," said the doctor slowly.
"Undoubtedly, in a delirium, everything is mixed, the real and the
imagined, the memory and the fantasy, actual experience and the inner
dream-life of the mind which is so difficult to classify. It was after
that, that she made her husband promise to see her only when she was
conscious and to remain away at the last."

"It is easily understood," said the cure quietly, without change of
expression on his face that held the secrets of a thousand
confessionals. "As you say, for ten years she had lived a different
life. She was afraid that in her delirium some reference to that time
might wound unnecessarily the man who had made over her life. She had a
great courage. Peace be with her soul."

"Still,"--Doctor Kimball hesitated, as though considering the phrasing
of a delicate question; but Father Francois, making a little amical sign
of adieu, passed out of the garden, and for a moment his blank face was
illumined by one of those rare smiles, such as one sees on the faces of
holy men; smiles that seem in perfect faith to look upon the mysteries
of the world to come.

EVEN THREES

I

Ever since the historic day when a visiting clergyman accomplished the
feat of pulling a ball from the tenth tee at an angle of two hundred and
twenty-five degrees into the river that is the rightful receptacle for
the eighth tee, the Stockbridge golf-course has had seventeen out of the
eighteen holes that are punctuated with possible water hazards. The
charming course itself lies in the flat of the sunken meadows which the
Housatonic, in the few thousand years which are necessary for the proper
preparation of a golf-course, has obligingly eaten out of the high,
accompanying bluffs. The river, which goes wriggling on its way as
though convulsed with merriment, is garnished with luxurious elms and
willows, which occasionally deflect to the difficult putting-greens the
random slices of certain notorious amateurs.

From the spectacular bluffs of the educated village of Stockbridge
nothing can be imagined more charming than the panorama that the course
presents on a busy day. Across the soft, green stretches, diminutive
caddies may be seen scampering with long buckling-nets, while from the
river-banks numerous recklessly exposed legs wave in the air as the more
socially presentable portions hang frantically over the swirling
current. Occasionally an enthusiastic golfer, driving from the eighth or
ninth tees, may be seen to start immediately in headlong pursuit of a
diverted ball, the swing of the club and the intuitive leap of the legs
forward forming so continuous a movement that the main purpose of the
game often becomes obscured to the mere spectator. Nearer, in the
numerous languid swales that nature has generously provided to protect
the interests of the manufacturers, or in the rippling patches of unmown
grass, that in the later hours will be populated by enthusiastic
caddies, desperate groups linger in botanizing attitudes.

Every morning lawyers who are neglecting their clients, doctors who have
forgotten their patients, business men who have sacrificed their
affairs, even ministers of the gospel who have forsaken their churches,
gather in the noisy dressing-room and listen with servile attention
while some unscrubbed boy who goes around under eighty imparts a little
of his miraculous knowledge.

Two hours later, for every ten that have gone out so blithely, two
return crushed and despondent, denouncing and renouncing the game, once
and for all, absolutely and finally, until the afternoon, when they
return like thieves in the night and venture out in a desperate hope;
two more come stamping back in even more offensive enthusiasm; and the
remainder straggle home moody and disillusioned, reviving their sunken
spirits by impossible tales of past accomplishments.

There is something about these twilight gatherings that suggests the
degeneracy of a rugged race; nor is the contamination of merely local
significance. There are those who lie consciously, with a certain frank,
commendable, whole-hearted plunge into iniquity. Such men return to
their worldly callings with intellectual vigor unimpaired and a natural
reaction toward the decalogue. Others of more casuistical temperament,
unable all at once to throw over the traditions of a New England
conscience to the exigencies of the game, do not burst at once into
falsehood, but by a confusing process weaken their memories and corrupt
their imaginations. They never lie of the events of the day. Rather they
return to some jumbled happening of the week before and delude
themselves with only a lingering qualm, until from habit they can create
what is really a form of paranoia, the delusion of greatness, or the
exaggerated ego. Such men, inoculated with self-deception, return to the
outer world, to deceive others, lower the standards of business
morality, contaminate politics, and threaten the vigor of the republic.
R.N. Booverman, the Treasurer, and Theobald Pickings, the unenvied
Secretary of an unenvied hoard, arrived at the first tee at precisely
ten o'clock on a certain favorable morning in early August to begin the
thirty-six holes which six times a week, six months of the year, they
played together as sympathetic and well-matched adversaries. Their
intimacy had arisen primarily from the fact that Pickings was the only
man willing to listen to Booverman's restless dissertations on the
malignant fates which seemed to pursue him even to the neglect of their
international duties, while Booverman, in fair exchange, suffered
Pickings to enlarge ad libitum on his theory of the rolling versus the
flat putting-greens.

Pickings was one of those correctly fashioned and punctilious golfers
whose stance was modeled on classic lines, whose drive, though it
averaged only twenty-five yards over the hundred, was always a
well-oiled and graceful exhibition of the Royal St. Andrew's swing, the
left sole thrown up, the eyeballs bulging with the last muscular
tension, the club carried back until the whole body was contorted into
the first position of the traditional hoop-snake preparing to descend a
hill. He used the interlocking grip, carried a bag with a spoon driver,
an aluminium cleek, three abnormal putters, and wore one chamois glove
with air-holes on the back. He never accomplished the course in less
than eighty five and never exceeded ninety four, but, having aimed to
set a correct example rather than to strive vulgarly for professional
records, was always in a state of offensive optimism due to a complete
sartorial satisfaction.

Booverman, on the contrary, had been hailed in his first years as a
coming champion. With three holes eliminated, he could turn in a card
distinguished for its fours and threes; but unfortunately these sad
lapses inevitably occurred. As Booverman himself admitted, his
appearance on the golf-links was the signal for the capricious imps of
chance who stir up politicians to indiscreet truths and keep the Balkan
pot of discord bubbling, to forsake immediately these prime duties, and
enjoy a little relaxation at his expense.

Now, for the first three years Booverman responded in a manner to
delight imp and devil. When standing thirty-four for the first six
holes, he sliced into the jungle, and, after twenty minutes of frantic
beating of the bush, was forced to acknowledge a lost ball and no score,
he promptly sat down, tore large clutches of grass from the sod, and
expressed himself to the admiring delight of the caddies, who favorably
compared his flow of impulsive expletives to the choice moments of their
own home life. At other times he would take an offending club firmly in
his big hands and break it into four pieces, which he would drive into
the ground, hurling the head itself, with a last diabolical gesture,
into the Housatonic River, which, as may be repeated, wriggles its way
through the course as though convulsed with merriment.

There were certain trees into which he inevitably drove, certain waggish
bends of the river where, no matter how he might face, he was sure to
arrive. There was a space of exactly ten inches under the clubhouse
where his balls alone could disappear. He never ran down a long put, but
always hung on the rim of the cup. It was his adversary who executed
phenomenal shots, approaches of eighty yards that dribbled home, sliced
drives that hit a fence and bounded back on the course. Nothing of this
agreeable sort had ever happened or could ever happen to him. Finally
the conviction of a certain predestined damnation settled upon him. He
no longer struggled; his once rollicking spirits settled into a moody
despair. Nothing encouraged him or could trick him into a display of
hope. If he achieved a four and two twos on the first holes, he would
say vindictively:

"What's the use? I'll lose my ball on the fifth."

And when this happened, he no longer swore, but said gloomily with even
a sense of satisfaction: "You can't get me excited. Didn't I know it
would happen?"

Once in a while he had broken out, "If ever my luck changes, if it
comes all at once--"

But he never ended the sentence, ashamed, as it were, to have indulged
in such a childish fancy. Yet, as Providence moves in a mysterious way
its wonders to perform, it was just this invincible pessimism that alone
could have permitted Booverman to accomplish the incredible experience
that befell him.

II

Topics of engrossing mental interests are bad form on the golf-links,
since they leave a disturbing memory in the mind to divert it from that
absolute intellectual concentration which the game demands. Therefore
Pickings and Booverman, as they started toward the crowded first tee,
remarked _de rigueur_:

"Good weather."

"A bit of a breeze."

"Not strong enough to affect the drives."

"The greens have baked out."

"Fast as I've seen them."

"Well, it won't help me."

"How do you know?" said Pickings, politely, for the hundredth time.
"Perhaps this is the day you'll get your score."

Booverman ignored this set remark, laying his ball on the rack, where
two predecessors were waiting, and settled beside Pickings at the foot
of the elm which later, he knew, would rob him of a four on the home
green.

Wessels and Pollock, literary representatives, were preparing to drive.
They were converts of the summer, each sacrificing their season's output
in a frantic effort to surpass the other. Pickings, the purist, did not
approve of them in the least. They brought to the royal and ancient game
a spirit of Bohemian irreverence and banter that offended his serious
enthusiasm.

When Wessels made a convulsive stab at his ball and luckily achieved
good distance, Pollock remarked behind his hand, "A good shot, damn it!"

Wessels stationed himself in a hopefully deprecatory attitude and
watched Pollock build a monument of sand, balance his ball, and
whistling nervously through his teeth, lunge successfully down.
Whereupon, in defiance of etiquette, he swore with equal fervor, and
they started off.

Pickings glanced at Booverman in a superior and critical way, but at
this moment a thin, dyspeptic man with undisciplined whiskers broke in
serenely without waiting for the answers to the questions he propounded:

"Ideal weather, eh? Came over from Norfolk this morning; ran over at
fifty miles an hour. Some going, eh? They tell me you've quite a course
here; record around seventy-one, isn't it? Good deal of water to keep
out of? You gentlemen some of the cracks? Course pretty fast with all
this dry weather? What do you think of the one-piece driver? My friend,
Judge Weatherup. My name's Yancy--Cyrus P."

A ponderous person who looked as though he had been pumped up for the
journey gravely saluted, while his feverish companion rolled on:

"Your course's rather short, isn't it? Imagine it's rather easy for a
straight driver. What's your record? Seventy-one amateur? Rather high,
isn't it? Do you get many cracks around here? Caddies seem scarce. Did
either of you gentlemen ever reflect how surprising it is that better
scores aren't made at this game? Now, take seventy-one; that's only one
under fours, and I venture to say at least six of your holes are
possible twos, and all the rest, sometime or other, have been made in
three. Yet you never hear of phenomenal scores, do you, like a run of
luck at roulette or poker? You get my idea?"

"I believe it is your turn, sir," said Pickings, both crushing and
parliamentary. "There are several waiting."

Judge Weatherup drove a perfect ball into the long grass, where
successful searches averaged ten minutes, while his voluble companion,
with an immense expenditure of force, foozled into the swale to the
left, which was both damp and retentive.

"Shall we play through?" said Pickings, with formal preciseness. He
teed his ball, took exactly eight full practice swings, and drove one
hundred and fifty yards as usual directly in the middle of the course.

"Well, it's straight; that's all can be said for it," he said, as he
would say at the next seventeen tees.

Booverman rarely employed that slogan. That straight and narrow path was
not in his religious practice. He drove a long ball, and he drove a
great many that did not return in his bag. He glanced resentfully to the
right, where Judge Weatherup was straddling the fence, and to the left,
where Yancy was annoying the bullfrogs.

"Darn them!" he said to himself. "Of course now I'll follow suit."

But whether or not the malignant force of suggestion was neutralized by
the attraction in opposite directions, his drive went straight and far,
a beautiful two hundred and forty yards.

"Tine shot, Mr. Booverman," said Frank, the professional, nodding his
head, "free and easy, plenty of follow-through."

"You're on your drive to-day," said Pickings, cheerfully.

"Sure! When I get a good drive off the first tee," said Booverman
discouraged, "I mess up all the rest. You'll see."

"Oh, come now," said Pickings, as a matter of form. He played his shot,
which came methodically to the edge of the green.

Booverman took his mashy for the short running-up stroke to the pin,
which seemed so near.

"I suppose I've tried this shot a thousand times," he said savagely.
"Any one else would get a three once in five times--any one but Jonah's
favorite brother."

He swung carelessly, and watched with a tolerant interest the white ball
roll on to the green straight for the flag. All at once Wessels and
Pollock, who were ahead, sprang into the air and began agitating their
hats.

"By George! it's in!" said Pickings. "You've run it down. First hole in
two! Well, what do you think of that?"

Booverman, unconvinced, approached the hole with suspicion, gingerly
removing the pin. At the bottom, sure enough, lay his ball for a
phenomenal two.

"That's the first bit of luck that has ever happened to me," he said
furiously; "absolutely the first time in my whole career."

"I say, old man," said Pickings, in remonstrance, "you're not angry
about it, are you?"

"Well, I don't know whether I am or not," said Booverman, obstinately.
In fact, he felt rather defrauded. The integrity of his record was
attacked. "See here, I play thirty-six holes a day, two hundred and
sixteen a week, a thousand a month, six thousand a year; ten years,
sixty thousand holes; and this is the first time a bit of luck has ever
happened to me--once in sixty thousand times."

Pickings drew out a handkerchief and wiped his forehead.

"It may come all at once," he said faintly.

This mild hope only infuriated Booverman. He had already teed his ball
for the second hole, which was poised on a rolling hill one hundred and
thirty-five yards away. It is considered rather easy as golf-holes go.
The only dangers are a matted wilderness of long grass in front of the
tee, the certainty of landing out of bounds on the slightest slice, or
of rolling down hill into a soggy substance on a pull. Also there is a
tree to be hit and a sand-pit to be sampled.

"Now watch my little friend the apple-tree," said Booverman. "I'm going
to play for it, because, if I slice, I lose my ball, and that knocks my
whole game higher than a kite." He added between his teeth: "All I ask
is to get around to the eighth hole before I lose my ball. I know I'll
lose it there."

Due to the fact that his two on the first brought him not the slightest
thrill of nervous joy, he made a perfect shot, the ball carrying the
green straight and true.

"This is your day all right," said Pickings, stepping to the tee.

"Oh, there's never been anything the matter with my irons," said
Booverman, darkly. "Just wait till we strike the fourth and fifth
holes."

When they climbed the hill, Booverman's ball lay within three feet of
the cup, which he easily putted out.

"Two down," said Pickings, inaudibly. "By George! what a glorious
start!"

"Once in sixty thousand times," said Booverman to himself. The third
hole lay two hundred and five yards below, backed by the road and
trapped by ditches, where at that moment Pollock, true to his traditions
as a war correspondent, was laboring in the trenches, to the
unrestrained delight of Wessels, who had passed beyond.

"Theobald," said Booverman, selecting his cleek and speaking with
inspired conviction, "I will tell you exactly what is going to happen. I
will smite this little homeopathic pill, and it will land just where I
want it. I will probably put out for another two. Three holes in twos
would probably excite any other human being on the face of this globe.
It doesn't excite me. I know too well what will follow on the fourth or
fifth. Watch."

"Straight to the pin," said Pickings in a loud whisper. "You've got a
dead line on every shot to-day. Marvelous! When you get one of your
streaks, there's certainly no use in my playing."

"Streak's the word," said Booverman, with a short, barking laugh. "Thank
heaven, though, Pickings, I know it! Five years ago I'd have been
shaking like a leaf. Now it only disgusts me. I've been fooled too
often; I don't bite again."

In this same profoundly melancholic mood he approached his ball, which
lay on the green, hole high, and put down a difficult put, a good three
yards for his third two.

Pickings, despite all his classic conservatism, was so overcome with
excitement that he twice putted over the hole for a shameful five.

Booverman's face as he walked to the fourth tee was as joyless as a
London fog. He placed his ball carelessly, selected his driver, and
turned on the fidgety Pickings with the gloomy solemnity of a father
about to indulge in corporal punishment.

"Once in sixty thousand times, Picky. Do you realize what a start like
this--three twos--would mean to a professional like Frank or even an
amateur that hadn't offended every busy little fate and fury in the
whole hoodooing business? Why, the blooming record would be knocked into
the middle of next week."

"You'll do it," said Pickings in a loud whisper. "Play carefully."

Booverman glanced down the four-hundred-yard straightaway and murmured
to himself:

"I wonder, little ball, whither will you fly?
I wonder, little ball, have I bid you good-by?
Will it be 'mid the prairies in the regions to the west?
Will it be in the marshes where the pollywogs nest?
Oh, tell me, little ball, is it ta-ta or good-by?"

[Illustration: "Oh, tell me, little ball, is it ta-ta or good-by?"]

He pronounced the last word with a settled conviction, and drove another
long, straight drive. Pickings, thrilled at the possibility of another
miracle, sliced badly.

"This is one of the most truly delightful holes of a picturesque
course," said Booverman, taking out an approaching cleek for his second
shot. "Nothing is more artistic than the tiny little patch of
putting-green under the shaggy branches of the willows. The receptive
graveyard to the right gives a certain pathos to it, a splendid, quiet
note in contrast to the feeling of the swift, hungry river to the left,
which will now receive and carry from my outstretched hand this little
white floater that will float away from me. No matter; I say again the
fourth green is a thing of ravishing beauty."

This second shot, low and long, rolled up in the same unvarying line.

"On the green," said Pickings.

"Short," said Booverman, who found, to his satisfaction, that he was
right by a yard.

"Take your time," said Pickings, biting his nails.

"Rats! I'll play it for a five," said Booverman.

His approach ran up on the line, caught the rim of the cup, hesitated,
and passed on a couple of feet.

"A four, anyway," said Pickings, with relief.

"I should have had a three," said Booverman, doggedly. "Any one else
would have had a three, straight on the cup. You'd have had a three,
Picky; you know you would."

Pickings did not answer. He was slowly going to pieces, forgetting the
invincible stoicism that is the pride of the true golfer.

"I say, take your time, old chap," he said, his voice no longer under
control. "Go slow! go slow!"

"Picky, for the first four years I played this course," said
Booverman, angrily, "I never got better than a six on this simple
three-hundred-and-fifty-yard hole. I lost my ball five times out of
seven. There is something irresistibly alluring to me in the mosquito
patches to my right. I think it is the fond hope that when I lose this
nice new ball I may step inadvertently on one of its hundred brothers,
which I may then bring home and give decent burial."

Pickings, who felt a mad and ungolfish desire to entreat him to caution,
walked away to fight down his emotion.

"Well?" he said, after the click of the club had sounded.

"Well," said Booverman, without joy, "that ball is lying about two
hundred and forty yards straight up the course, and by this time it has
come quietly to a little cozy home in a nice, deep hoof track, just as I
found it yesterday afternoon. Then I will have the exquisite pleasure of
taking my niblick, and whanging it out for the loss of a stroke. That'll
infuriate me, and I'll slice or pull. The best thing to do, I suppose,
would be to play for a conservative six."

When, after four butchered shots, Pickings had advanced to where
Booverman had driven, the ball lay in clear position just beyond the
bumps and rills that ordinarily welcome a long shot. Booverman played a
perfect mashy, which dropped clear on the green, and ran down a moderate
put for a three.

They then crossed the road and arrived by a planked walk at a dirt mound
in the midst of a swamp. Before them the cozy marsh lay stagnant ahead
and then sloped to the right in the figure of a boomerang, making for
those who fancied a slice a delightful little carry of one hundred and
fifty yards. To the left was a procession of trees, while beyond, on the
course, for those who drove a long ball, a giant willow had fallen the
year before in order to add a new perplexity and foster the enthusiasm
for luxury that was beginning among the caddies.

"I have a feeling," said Booverman, as though puzzled but not duped by
what had happened--"I have a strange feeling that I'm not going to get
into trouble here. That would be too obvious. It's at the seventh or
eighth holes that something is lurking around for me. Well, I won't
waste time."

He slapped down his ball, took a full swing, and carried the far-off
bank with a low, shooting drive that continued bounding on.

"That ought to roll forever," said Pickings, red with excitement.

"The course is fast--dry as a rock," said Booverman, deprecatingly.

Pickings put three balls precisely into the bubbling water, and drew
alongside on his eighth shot. Booverman's drive had skimmed over the
dried plain for a fair two hundred and seventy-five yards. His second
shot, a full brassy, rolled directly on the green.

"If he makes a four here," said Pickings to himself, "he'll be playing
five under four--no, by thunder! seven under four!" Suddenly he stopped,
overwhelmed. "Why, he's actually around threes--two under three now.
Heavens! if he ever suspects it, he'll go into a thousand pieces."

As a result, he missed his own ball completely, and then topped it for a
bare fifty yards.

"I've never seen you play so badly," said Booverman in a grumbling tone.
"You'll end up by throwing me off."

When they arrived at the green, Booverman's ball lay about thirty feet
from the flag.

"It's a four, a sure four," said Pickings under his breath.

Suddenly Booverman burst into an exclamation.

"Picky, come here. Look--look at that!"

The tone was furious. Pickings approached.

"Do you see that?" said Booverman, pointing to a freshly laid circle of
sod ten inches from his ball. "That, my boy, was where the cup was
yesterday. If they hadn't moved the flag two hours ago, I'd have had a
three. Now, what do you think of that for rotten luck?"

"Lay it dead," said Pickings, anxiously, shaking his head
sympathetically. "The green's a bit fast."

The put ran slowly up to the hole, and stopped four inches short.

"By heavens! why didn't I put over it!" said Booverman, brandishing his
putter. "A thirty-foot put that stops an inch short--did you ever see
anything like it? By everything that's just and fair I should have had a
three. You'd have had it, Picky. Lord! if I only could put!"

"One under three," said Pickings to his fluttering inner self. "He can't
realize it. If I can only keep his mind off the score!"

The seventh tee is reached by a carefully planned, fatiguing flight of
steps to the top of a bluff, where three churches at the back beckon so
many recording angels to swell the purgatory lists. As you advance to
the abrupt edge, everything is spread before you; nothing is concealed.
In the first plane, the entangling branches of a score of apple-trees
are ready to trap a topped ball and bury it under impossible piles of
dry leaves. Beyond, the wired tennis-courts give forth a musical, tinny
note when attacked. In the middle distance a glorious sycamore draws you
to the left, and a file of elms beckon the sliced way to a marsh,
wilderness of grass and an overgrown gully whence no balls return. In
front, one hundred and twenty yards away, is a formidable bunker,
running up to which is a tract of long grass, which two or three times a
year is barbered by a charitable enterprise. The seventh hole itself
lies two hundred and sixty yards away in a hollow guarded by a sunken
ditch, a sure three or--a sure six.

Booverman was still too indignant at the trick fate had played him on
the last green to yield to any other emotion. He forgot that a dozen
good scores had ended abruptly in the swale to the right. He was only
irritated. He plumped down his ball, dug his toes in the ground, and
sent off another long, satisfactory drive, which added more fuel to his
anger.

"Any one else would have had a three on the six," he muttered as he left
the tee. "It's too ridiculous."

He had a short approach and an easy put, plucked his ball from the cup,
and said in an injured tone:

"Picky, I feel bad about that sixth hole, and the fourth, too. I've
lost a stroke on each of them. I'm playing two strokes more than I ought
to be. Hang it all! that sixth wasn't right! You told me the green was
fast."

"I'm sorry," said Pickings, feeling his fingers grow cold and clammy on
the grip.

The eighth hole has many easy opportunities. It is five hundred and
twenty yards long, and things may happen at every stroke. You may begin
in front of the tee by burying your ball in the waving grass, which is
always permitted a sort of poetical license. There are the traps to the
seventh hole to be crossed, and to the right the paralleling river can
be reached by a short stab or a long, curling slice, which the
prevailing wind obligingly assists to a splashing descent.

"And now we have come to the eighth hole," said Booverman, raising his
hat in profound salutation. "Whenever I arrive here with a good score I
take from eight to eighteen, I lose one to three balls. On the contrary,
when I have an average of six, I always get a five and often a four. How
this hole has changed my entire life!" He raised his ball and addressed
it tenderly: "And now, little ball, we must part, you and I. It seems a
shame; you're the nicest little ball I ever have known. You've stuck to
me an awful long while. It's a shame."

He teed up, and drove his best drive, and followed it with a brassy that
laid him twenty yards off the green, where a good approach brought the
desired four.

"Even threes," said Pickings to himself, as though he had seen a ghost.
Now he was only a golfer of one generation; there was nothing in his
inheritance to steady him in such a crisis. He began slowly to
disintegrate morally, to revert to type. He contained himself until
Booverman had driven free of the river, which flanks the entire green
passage to the ninth hole, and then barely controlling the impulse to
catch Booverman by the knees and implore him to discretion, he burst
out:

"I say, dear boy, do you know what your score is?"

"Something well under four," said Booverman, scratching his head.

"Under four, nothing; even threes!"

"What?"

"Even threes."

They stopped, and tabulated the holes.

"So it is," said Booverman, amazed. "What an infernal pity!"

"Pity?"

"Yes, pity. If only some one else could play it out!"

He studied the hundred and fifty yards that were needed to reach the
green that was set in the crescent of surrounding trees, changed his
brassy for his cleek, and his cleek for his midiron.

"I wish you hadn't told me," he said nervously.

Pickings on the instant comprehended his blunder. For the first time
Booverman's shot went wide of the mark, straight into the trees that
bordered the river to the left.

"I'm sorry," said Pickings with a feeble groan.

"My dear Picky, it had to come," said Booverman, with a shrug of his
shoulders. "The ball is now lost, and all the score goes into the air,
the most miraculous score any one ever heard of is nothing but a crushed
egg!"

"It may have bounded back on the course," said Pickings, desperately.

"No, no, Picky; not that. In all the sixty thousand times I have hit
trees, barns, car-tracks, caddies, fences,--"

"There it is!" cried Pickings, with a shout of joy.

Fair on the course, at the edge of the green itself, lay the ball, which
soon was sunk for a four. Pickings felt a strange, unaccountable desire
to leap upon Booverman like a fluffy, enthusiastic dog; but he fought it
back with the new sense of responsibility that came to him. So he said
artfully: "By George! old man, if you hadn't missed on the fourth or the
sixth, you'd have done even threes!"

"You know what I ought to do now--I ought to stop," said Booverman, in
profound despair--"quit golf and never lift another club. It's a crime
to go on; it's a crime to spoil such a record. Twenty-eight for nine
holes, only forty-two needed for the next nine to break the record, and
I have done it in thirty-three--and in fifty-three! I ought not to try;
it's wrong."

He teed his ball for the two-hundred-yard flight to the easy tenth, and
took his cleek.

"I know just what'll happen now; I know it well."

But this time there was no varying in the flight; the drive went true to
the green, straight on the flag, where a good but not difficult put
brought a two.

"Even threes again," said Pickings, but to himself. "It can't go on. It
must turn."

"Now, Pickings, this is going to stop," said Booverman angrily. "I'm not
going to make a fool of myself. I'm going right up to the tee, and I'm
going to drive my ball right smack into the woods and end it. And I
don't care."

"What!"

"No, I don't care. Here goes."

Again his drive continued true, the mashy pitch for the second was
accurate, and his put, after circling the rim of the cup, went down for
a three.

The twelfth hole is another dip into the long grass that might serve as
an elephant's bed, and then across the Housatonic River, a carry of one
hundred and twenty yards to the green at the foot of an intruding tree.

"Oh, I suppose I'll make another three here, too," said Booverman,
moodily. "That'll only make it worse."

He drove with his midiron high in the air and full on the flag.

"I'll play my put carefully for three," he said, nodding his head.
Instead, it ran straight and down for two.

He walked silently to the dreaded thirteenth tee, which, with the
returning fourteenth, forms the malignant Scylla and Charybdis of the
course. There is nothing to describe the thirteenth hole. It is not
really a golf-hole; it is a long, narrow breathing spot, squeezed by the
railroad tracks on one side and by the river on the other. Resolute and
fearless golfers often cut them out entirely, nor are ashamed to
acknowledge their terror. As you stand at the thirteenth tee, everything
is blurred to the eye. Near by are rushes and water, woods to the left
and right; the river and the railroad; and the dry land a hundred yards
away looks tiny and distant, like a rock amid floods.

A long drive that varies a degree is doomed to go out of bounds or to
take the penalty of the river.

"Don't risk it. Take an iron--play it carefully," said Pickings in a
voice that sounded to his own ears unrecognizable.

Booverman followed his advice and landed by the fence to the left,
almost off the fair. A midiron for his second put him in position for
another four, and again brought his score to even threes.

When the daring golfer has passed quaking up the narrow way and still
survives, he immediately falls a victim to the fourteenth, which is a
bend hole, with all the agonies of the preceding thirteenth, augmented
by a second shot over a long, mushy pond. If you play a careful iron to
keep from the railroad, now on the right, or to dodge the river on your
left, you are forced to approach the edge of the swamp with a cautious
fifty-yard-running-up stroke before facing the terrors of the carry. A
drive with a wooden club is almost sure to carry into the swamp, and
only a careful cleek shot is safe.

"I wish I were playing this for the first time," said Booverman,
blackly. "I wish I could forget--rid myself of memories. I have seen
class A amateurs take twelve, and professionals eight. This is the end
of all things, Picky, the saddest spot on earth. I won't waste time.
Here goes."

To Pickings's horror, the drive began slowly to slice out of bounds,
toward the railroad tracks.

"I knew it," said Booverman, calmly, "and the next will go there, too;
then I'll put one in the river, two the swamp, slice into--"

All at once he stopped, thunderstruck. The ball, hitting tire or rail,
bounded high in the air, forward, back upon the course, lying in perfect
position; Pickings said something in a purely reverent spirit.

"Twice in sixty thousand times," said Booverman, unrelenting. "That only
evens up the sixth hole. Twice in sixty thousand times!"

From where the ball lay an easy brassy brought it near enough to the
green to negotiate another four. Pickings, trembling like a toy dog in
zero weather, reached the green in ten strokes, and took three more
puts.

The fifteenth, a short pitch over the river, eighty yards to a slanting
green entirely surrounded by more long grass, which gave it the
appearance of a chin spot on a full face of whiskers, was Booverman's
favorite hole. While Pickings held his eyes to the ground and tried to
breathe in regular breaths, Booverman placed his ball, drove with the
requisite back spin, and landed dead to the hole. Another two resulted.

"Even threes--fifteen holes in even threes," said Pickings to himself,
his head beginning to throb. He wanted to sit down and take his temples
in his hands, but for the sake of history he struggled on.

"Damn it!" said Booverman all at once.

"What's the matter?" said Pickings, observing his face black with fury.

"Do you realize, Pickings, what it means to me to have lost those two
strokes on the fourth and sixth greens, and through no fault of mine,
neither? Even threes for the whole course--that's what I could do if I
had those two strokes--the greatest thing that's ever been seen on a
golf-course. It may be a hundred years before any human being on the
face of this earth will get such a chance. And to think I might have
done it with a little luck!"

Pickings felt his heart begin to pump, but he was able to say with some
degree of calm:

"You may get a three here."

"Never. Four, three and four is what I'll end."

"Well, good heavens! what do you want?"

"There's no joy in it, though," said Booverman, gloomily. "If I had
those two strokes back, I'd go down in history, I'd be immortal. And
you, too, Picky, you'd be immortal, because you went around with me. The
fourth hole was bad enough, but the sixth was heartbreaking."

His drive cleared another swamp and rolled well down the farther
plateau. A long cleek laid his ball off the green, a good approach
stopped a little short of the hole, and the put went down.

"Well, that ends it," said Booverman, gloomily.

"I've got to make a two and a three to do it. The two is quite possible;
the three absurd."

The seventeenth hole returns to the swamp that enlivens the sixth. It is
a full cleek, with about six mental hazards distributed in Indian
ambush, and in five of them a ball may lie until the day of judgment
before rising again.

Pickings turned his back, unable to endure the agony of watching. The
click of the club was sharp and true. He turned to see the ball in full
flight arrive unerringly hole high on the green.

"A chance for a two," he said under his breath. He sent two balls into
the lost land to the left and one into the rough to the right.

"Never mind me," he said, slashing away in reckless fashion.

Booverman with a little care studied the ten-foot route to the hole and
putted down.

"Even threes!" said Pickings, leaning against a tree.

"Blast that sixth hole!" said Booverman, exploding. "Think of what it
might be, Picky--what it ought to be!"

Pickings retired hurriedly before the shaking approach of Booverman's
frantic club. Incapable of speech, he waved him feebly to drive. He
began incredulously to count up again, as though doubting his senses.

"One under three, even threes, one over, even, one under--"

"Here! What the deuce are you doing?" said Booverman, angrily. "Trying
to throw me off?"

"I didn't say anything," said Pickings.

"You didn't--muttering to yourself."

"I must make him angry to keep his mind off the score," said Pickings,
feebly to himself. He added aloud, "Stop kicking about your old sixth
hole! You've had the darndest luck I ever saw, and yet you grumble."

Booverman swore under his breath, hastily approached his ball, drove
perfectly, and turned in a rage.

"Luck?" he cried furiously. "Pickings, I've a mind to wring your neck.
Every shot I've played has been dead on the pin, now, hasn't it?"

"How about the ninth hole--hitting a tree?"

"Whose fault was that? You had no right to tell me my score, and,
besides, I only got an ordinary four there, anyway."

"How about the railroad track?"

"One shot out of bounds. Yes, I'll admit that. That evens up for the
fourth."

"How about your first hole in two?"

"Perfectly played; no fluke about it at all--once in sixty thousand
times. Well, any more sneers? Anything else to criticize?"

"Let it go at that."

Booverman, in this heckled mood, turned irritably to his ball, played a
long midiron, just cleared the crescent bank of the last swale, and ran
up on the green.

[Illustration: Wild-eyed and hilarious, they descended on the clubhouse
with the miraculous news]

"Damn that sixth hole!" said Booverman, flinging down his club and
glaring at Pickings. "One stroke back, and I could have done it."

Pickings tried to address, but the moment he swung his club, his legs
began to tremble. He shook his head, took a long breath, and picked up
his ball.

They approached the green on a drunken run in the wild hope that a short
put was possible. Unfortunately the ball lay thirty feet away, and the
path to the hole was bumpy and riddled with worm-casts. Still, there was
a chance, desperate as it was.

Pickings let his bag slip to the ground and sat down, covering his eyes
while Booverman with his putter tried to brush away the ridges.

"Stand up!"

Pickings rose convulsively.

"For heaven's sake, Picky, stand up! Try to be a man!" said Booverman,
hoarsely. "Do you think I've any nerve when I see you with chills and
fever? Brace up!"

"All right."

Booverman sighted the hole, and then took his stance; but the cleek in
his hand shook like an aspen. He straightened up and walked away.

"Picky," he said, mopping his face, "I can't do it. I can't put it."

"You must."

"I've got buck fever. I'll never be able to put it--never."

At the last, no longer calmed by an invincible pessimism, Booverman had
gone to pieces. He stood shaking from head to foot.

"Look at that," he said, extending a fluttering hand. "I can't do it; I
can never do it."

"Old fellow, you must," said Pickings; "you've got to. Bring yourself
together. Here!" He slapped him on the back, pinched his arms, and
chafed his fingers. Then he led him back to the ball, braced him into
position, and put the putter in his hands.

"Buck fever," said Booverman in a whisper. "Can't see a thing."

Pickings, holding the flag in the cup, said savagely:

"Shoot!"

The ball advanced in a zigzag path, running from worm-cast to a
worm-cast, wobbling and rocking, and at the last, as though preordained,
fell plump into the cup!

At the same moment, Pickings and Booverman, as though carried off by the
same cannon-ball, flattened on the green.

III

Five minutes later, wild-eyed and hilarious, they descended on the
clubhouse with the miraculous news. For an hour the assembled golfers
roared with laughter as the two stormed, expostulated, and swore to the
truth of the tale.

[Illustration: A committee carefully examined the books of the club]

They journeyed from house to house in a vain attempt to find some
convert to their claim. For a day they passed as consummate comedians,
and the more they yielded to their rage, the more consummate was their
art declared. Then a change took place. From laughing the educated town
of Stockbridge turned to resentment, then to irritation, and finally to
suspicion. Booverman and Pickings began to lose caste, to be regarded as
unbalanced, if not positively dangerous. Unknown to them, a committee
carefully examined the books of the club. At the next election another
treasurer and another secretary were elected.

Since then, month in and month out, day after day, in patient hope, the
two discredited members of the educated community of Stockbridge may be
seen, _accompanied by caddies_, toiling around the links in a desperate
belief that the miracle that would restore them to standing may be
repeated. Each time as they arrive nervously at the first tee and
prepare to swing, something between a chuckle and a grin runs through
the assemblage, while the left eyes contract waggishly, and a murmuring
may be heard,

"Even threes."

* * * * *

The Stockbridge golf-links is a course of ravishing beauty and the
Housatonic River, as has been said, goes wriggling around it as though
convulsed with merriment.

A MAN OF NO IMAGINATION

I

Inspector Frawley, of the Canadian Secret Service, stood at attention,
waiting until the scratch of a pen should cease throughout the dim,
spacious office and the Honorable Secretary of Justice should acquaint
him with his desires.

He held himself deferentially, body compact, eyes clear and steady, face
blank and controlled, without distinction, without significance, a man
mediocre as a crowd. His hands were joined loosely behind his back; his
glance, without deviating, remained persistently on the profile of the
Honorable Secretary, as though in that historic room the human note
alone could compel his curiosity.

The thin squeak of the pen faded into the silences of the great room.
The Secretary of Justice ran his fingers over his forehead, looked up,
and met the Inspector's gaze--fixed, profound, and mathematical. With a
sudden unease he pushed back his chair, troubled by the analysis of his
banal man, who, in another turn of Fate, might pursue him as
dispassionately as he now stood before him for his commands. With a few
rapid strides he crossed the room, lit a cigar, blew into the swirl of
smoke this caprice of his imagination, and returned stolidly, as became
a man of facts and figures.

Flinging himself loosely in an easy chair, he threw a rapid glance at
his watch, locked his fingers, and began with the nervous directness of
one who wishes to be rid of formalities:

"Well, Inspector, you returned this morning?"

"An hour ago, sir."

"A creditable bit of work, Inspector Frawley--the department is
pleased."

"Thank you indeed, sir."

"Does the case need you any more?"

"I should say not, sir--no, sir."

"You are ready to report for duty?"

"Oh, yes, sir."

"How soon?"

"I think I'm ready now, sir--yes, sir."

"Glad to hear it, Inspector, very glad. You're the one man I wanted." As
though the civilities had been sufficiently observed, the Secretary
stiffened in his chair and continued rapidly: "It's that Toronto affair;
you've read the details. The government lost $350,000. We caught four of
the gang, but the ringleader got away with the money. Have you studied
it? What did you make of it? Sit down."

Frawley took a chair stiffly, hanging his hat between his knees and
considering.

"It did look like work from the States," he said thoughtfully. "I beg
pardon, did you say they'd caught some of the gang?"

"Four--this morning. The telegram's just in."

The Honorable Secretary, a little strange yet to the routine of the
office, looked at Frawley with a sudden desire to test his memory.

"Do you know the work?" he asked; "could you recognize the ringleader?"

"That might not be so hard, sir," said Frawley, with a nod; "we know
pretty well, of course, who's able to handle such jobs as that. Would
you have a description anywhere?"

The Honorable Secretary rose, took from his desk a paper, and began to
read. In his seat Inspector Frawley crossed his legs carefully, drew his
fists up under his chin, and stared at the reader, but without focusing
his glance on him. Once during the recital he started at some item of
description, but immediately relaxed. The report finished, the Secretary
let it drop into his lap and waited, impressed, despite himself, at the
thought of the immense galleries of crime through which the Inspector
was seeking his victim. All at once into the unseeing stare there
flickered a light of understanding. Frawley returned to the room, saw
the Secretary, and nodded.

"It's Bucky," he said tentatively. A moment his glance went
reflectively to a far corner, then he nodded slowly, looked at the
Secretary, and said with conviction: "It looks very much, sir, like
Bucky Greenfield."

"It is Greenfield," replied the Secretary, without attempting to conceal
his astonishment.

"I would like to observe," said Frawley thoughtfully, without noticing
his surprise, "that there is a bit of an error in that description, sir.
It's the left ear that's broken. Furthermore, he don't toe
out--excepting when he does it on a purpose. So it's Bucky Greenfield
I'm to bring back, sir?"

The Secretary nodded, penciling Frawley's correction on the paper.

"Bucky--well, now, that is odd!" said Frawley musingly. He rose and took
a step to the desk. "Very odd." Mechanically he saw the straggling
papers on the top and arranged them into orderly piles. "Well, he can't
say I didn't warn him!"

"What!" broke in the Secretary in quick astonishment, "you know the
fellow?"

"Indeed, yes, sir," said Frawley, with a nod. "We know most of the
crooks in the States. We're good friends, too--so long as they stay over
the line. It's useful, you know. So I'm to go after Bucky?"

The Secretary, judging the moment had arrived to be impressive, said
solemnly:

"Inspector Frawley, if you have to stick to it until he dies of old age,
you're never to let up until you get Bucky Greenfield! While the
British Empire holds together, no man shall rob Her Majesty of a
farthing and sleep in security. You understand the situation?"

"I do, sir."

The Honorable Secretary, only half satisfied, continued:

"Your credit is unlimited--there'll be no question of that. If you need
to buy up a whole South American government--buy it! By the way, he will
make for South America, will he not?"

"Probably--yes, sir. Chile or the Argentine--there's no extradition
treaty there."

"But even then," broke in the Secretary with a nervous frown--"there are
ways--other ways?"

"Oh, yes." Frawley, picking up a paper-cutter, stood by the mantel
tapping his palm. "Oh, yes--there are other ways! So it's Bucky--well, I
warned him!"

"Now, Inspector, to settle the matter," interrupted the Secretary,
anxious to return to his routine, "when can you go on the case?"

"If the papers are ready, sir--"

"They are--everything. The Home Office has been cabled. To-morrow every
British official throughout the world will be notified to render you
assistance and honor your drafts."

Inspector Frawley heard with approval and consulted his watch.

"There's an express for New York leaves at noon," he said
reflectively--then, with a glance at the clock, "thirty-five minutes; I
can make that, sir."

"Good, very good."

"If I might suggest, sir--if the Inspector who has had the case in hand
could go a short distance with me?"

"Inspector Keech shall join you at the station."

"Thank you, sir. Is there anything further?"

The Secretary shook his head, and springing up, held out his hand
enthusiastically.

"Good luck to you, Inspector--you have a big thing ahead of you, a very
big thing."

"Thank you, sir."

"By the way--you're not married?"

"No, sir."

"This is pretty short notice. How long have you been on this other
case?"

"A trifle over six months, sir."

"Don't you want a couple of days to rest up? I can let you have that
very easily."

"It really makes no difference--I think I'll leave to-day, sir."

"Oh, a moment more, Inspector--"

Frawley halted.

"How long do you think this ought to take you?"

Frawley considered, and answered carefully:

"It'll be long, I think. You see, there are several circumstances that
are unusual about this case."

"How so?"

"Well, Buck is clever--there's no gainsaying that--quite at the top of
the profession. Then, he's expecting me."

"You?"

"They're a queer lot," Frawley explained with a touch of pride. "Crooks
are full of little vanities. You see, Bucky knows I've never dropped a
trail, and I think it's rather gotten on his nerves. I think he wasn't
satisfied until he dared me. He's very odd--very odd indeed. It's a
little personal. I doubt, sir, if I bring him back alive."

"Inspector Frawley," said the new Secretary, "I hope I have sufficiently
impressed upon you the importance of your mission."

Frawley stared at his chief in surprise.

"I'm to stick to him until I get him," he said in wonder; "that's all,
isn't it, sir?"

The Secretary, annoyed by his lack of imagination, essayed a final
phrase.

"Inspector, this is my last word," he said with a frown; "remember that
you represent Her Majesty's government--you are Her Majesty's
government! I have confidence in you."

"Thank you, sir."

Frawley moved slowly to the door and with his hand on the knob
hesitated. The Secretary saw in the movement a reluctance to take the
decisive step that must open before him the wide stretches of the world.

"After all, he must have a speck of imagination," he thought, reassured.

"I beg pardon, sir."

Frawley had turned in embarrassment.

"Well, Inspector, what can I do for you?"

"If you please, sir," said Frawley, "I was just thinking--after all, it
has been a bit of a while since I've been home--indeed, I should like it
very much if I could take a good English mutton-chop and a musty ale at
old Nell's, sir. I can still get the two o'clock express."

"Granted!"

"If you'd prefer not, sir," said Frawley, surprised at the vexation in
his answer.

"Not at all--take the two o'clock--good day, good day!"

Inspector Frawley, sorely puzzled, shifted his balance, opened his
mouth, then with a bob of his head answered hastily:

"A--good day, sir!"

II

Sam Greenfield, known as "Bucky," age about 42, height about 5 feet 10
inches, weight between 145 and 150. Hair mouse-colored, thinning out
over forehead, parted in middle, showing scalp beneath; mustache would
be lighter than hair--if not dyed; usually clipped to about an inch.
Waxy complexion, light blue eyes a little close together, thin nose, a
prominent dimple on left cheek--may wear whiskers. Laughs in low key.
Left ear lobe broken. Slightly bowlegged. While in conversation strokes
chin. When standing at a counter or bar goes through motions, as if
jerking himself together, crowding his elbows slowly to his side for a
moment, then, throwing back his head, jumps up from his heels. When
dreaming, attempts to bite mustache with lower lip. When he sits in a
chair places himself sidewise and hangs both arms over back. In walking
strikes back part of heel first, and is apt to waver from time to time.
Dresses neatly, carries hands in side-pockets only--plays piano
constantly, composing as he goes along. During day smokes twenty to
thirty cigarettes, cutting them in half for cigarette-holder and
throwing them away after three or four whiffs. After dinner invariably
smokes one cigar. Cut is good likeness. Cut of signature is facsimile of
his original writing.

With this overwhelming indictment against the liberty of the fugitive,
to escape which Greenfield would have to change his temperament as well
as his physical aspect, Inspector Frawley took the first steamer from
New York to the Isthmus of Panama.

He had slight doubt of Greenfield's final destination, for the flight of
the criminal is a blind instinct for the south as though a frantic
return to barbarism. At this time Chile and the Argentine had not yet
accepted the principle of extradition, and remained the Mecca of the
lawbreakers of the world.

Yet though Frawley felt certain of Greenfield's objective, he did not
at once strike for the Argentine. The Honorable Secretary of Justice had
eliminated the necessity for considering time. Frawley had no need to
guess, nor to risk. He had simply to become a wheel in the machinery of
the law, to grind slowly, tirelessly, and inexorably. This idea suited
admirably his temperament and his desires.

He arrived at Colon, took train for Panama across the laborious path
where a thousand little men were scratching endlessly, and on the brink
of the Pacific began his search. No one had heard of Greenfield.

At the end of a week's waiting he boarded a steamer and crawled down the
western coast of South America, investigating every port, braving the
yellow fever at Guayaquil, Ecuador, and facing a riot at Callao, Peru,
before he found at Lima the trail of the fugitive. Greenfield had passed
the day there and left for Chile. Dragging each intermediate port with
the same caution, Frawley followed the trail to Valparaiso. Greenfield
had stayed a week and again departed.

Frawley at once took steamer for the Argentine, passed down the tongue
of South America, through the Straits of Magellan, and arrived at length
in the harbor of Buenos Ayres.

An hour later, as he took his place at the table in the Criterion
Gardens, a hand fell on his shoulder and some one at his back said:

"Well, Bub!"

He turned. A thin man of medium height, with blue eyes and yellow
complexion, was laughing in expectation of his discomfiture. Frawley
laid down the menu carefully, raised his head, and answered quietly:

"Why, how d'ye do, Bucky?"

III

"We shake, of course," said Greenfield, holding out his hand.

"Why not? Sit down."

The fugitive slid into a chair and hung his arms over the back, asking
immediately:

"What took you so long? You're after me, of course?"

"Am I?" Frawley answered, looking at him steadily. Greenfield, with a
twitch of his shoulders, returned to his question:

"What took you so long? Didn't you guess I'd come direct?"

"I'm not guessing," said Frawley.

"What do you say to dining on me?" said Greenfield with a malicious
smile. "I owe you that. I clipped your vacation pretty short.
Besides--guess you know it yourself--you can't touch me here. Why not
talk things over frankly? Say, Bub, shall it be on me?"

"I'm willing."

A waiter sidled up and took the order that Greenfield gave without
hesitation.

"You see, even the dinner was ready for you," he said with a wink; "see
how you like it." With a gesture of impatience he pushed aside the menu,
squared his arms on the table, and looked suddenly at his pursuer with
the deviltry of a schoolboy glistening in his eyes. "Well, Bub, I went
into your all-fired Canady!"

"So you did--why?"

"Well," said Greenfield, drawing lines with his knife-point on the nap,
"one reason was I wanted to see if Her Majesty's shop has such an
all-fired long arm--"

"And the other reason was I warned you to keep over the line."

"Why, Bub, you _are_ a bright boy!"

"It ain't me, Bucky," Frawley answered, with a shake of his head; "it's
the all-fired government that's after you."

"Good--first rate--then we'll have a little excitement!"

"You'll have plenty of that, Bucky!"

"Maybe, Bub, maybe. Well, I made a neat job of it, didn't I?"

"You did," admitted Frawley with an appreciative nod. "But you were
wrong--you were wrong--you should have kept off. The Canadian Government
ain't like your bloomin' democracy. It don't forgive--it don't forget.
Tack that up, Bucky. It's a principle we've got at stake with you!"

"Don't I know it?" cried Greenfield, striking the table. "What else do
you think I did it for?"

Frawley gazed at him, then said slowly: "I told them it was a personal
matter."

"Sure it was! Do you think I could keep out after you served notice on
me? D---- your English pride and your English justice! I'm a good enough
Yank to see if your dinky police is such an all-fired cute little bunch
of wonder-workers as you say! Bub--you think you're going to get Mr.
Greenfield--don't you?"

"I'm not thinking, Bucky--"

"Eh?"

"I'm simply sticking to you."

"Sticking to me!" cried Greenfield with a roar of disgust. "Why, you
unimaginative, lumbering, beef-eating Canuck, you can't get me that way!
Why in tarnation didn't you strike plump for here--instead of rubbin'
yourself down the whole coast of South Ameriky?"

"Bucky, you don't understand the situation properly," objected Frawley,
without varying the level tone of his voice. "Supposing it had been a
bloomin' corporation had sent me--? that's what I'd have done. But it's
the government this time--Her Majesty's government! Time ain't no
consideration. I'd have raked down the whole continent if I'd had
to--though I knew where you were."

"Well, and now what? You can't touch me, Bub," he added earnestly. "I
like straight talk, man to man. Now, what's your game?"

"Business."

"All right then," said Greenfield, with a frown, "but you can't touch
me--now. There's an extradition treaty coming, but then there'd have to
be a retroactive clause to do you any good." He paused, studying the
expression on the Inspector's face. "There's enough of the likes of me
here to see that don't occur. Say, Bub?"

"Well?"

"You deal a square pack, don't you?"

"That's my reputation, Bucky."

"Give me your word you'll play me square."

Inspector Frawley, leaning forward, helped himself busily. Greenfield,
with pursed lips, studied every movement.

"No kidnapping tricks?"

Without lifting his eyes Frawley sharpened his knife vigorously against
his fork and fell to eating.

"Well, Bub?"

"What?"

"No fancy kidnapping?"

"I'm promising nothing, Bucky."

There was a blank moment while Greenfield considered. Suddenly he shot
out his hand, saying with a nod: "You're a white man, Bub, and I never
heard a word against that." He filled a glass and shoved it toward
Frawley. "We might as well clink on it. For I rather opinionate before
we get through this little business--there'll be something worth talking
about."

"Here's to you then, Bucky," said Frawley, nodding.

"Remember what I tell you," said Greenfield, looking over his glass,
"there's going to be something to live for."

"I say, Bucky," said Frawley with a lazy interest, "would they serve you
five-o'clock tea here, I wonder?"

Greenfield, drawing back, laughed a superior laugh.

"Bub, I'm sorry for you--'pon my word I am."

"How so, Bucky?"

"Why, you plodding little English lamb, you don't have the slightest
suspicion what you're gettin' into!"

"What am I getting into, Bucky?"

Greenfield threw back his head with a chuckle.

"If you get me, it'll be the last job you ever pull off."

"Maybe, maybe."

"Since things are aboveboard--listen here," said Greenfield with sudden
seriousness. "Bub, you'll not get me alive. Nothing personal, you
understand, but it'll have to be your life or mine. If it comes to the
pinch, look out for yourself--"

"Oh, yes," said Frawley, with a matter-of-fact nod, "I understand."

"I ain't tried to bribe you," said Greenfield, rising. "Thank me for
that--though another man might have been sent up for life."

"Thanks," Frawley said with a drawl. "And you'll notice I haven't
advised you to come back and face the music. Seems to me we understand
each other."

"Here's my address," said Greenfield, handing him a card; "may save you
some trouble. I'm here every night." He held out his hand. "Turn up and
meet the profesh. They're a clever lot here. They'd appreciate meeting
you, too."

"Perhaps I will."

"Ta-ta, then."

Greenfield took a few steps, halted, and lounged back with a smile full
of mischief.

"By the way, Bub--how long has Her Majesty's dinkies given you?"

"It's a life appointment, Bucky."

"Really--bless me--then your bloomin' government has some sense after
all."

The two men saluted gravely, with a parting exchange.

"Now, Bub--keep fit."

"Same to you, Bucky."

IV

The view of Greenfield sauntering lightly away among the noisy tables,
bravado in his manner, deviltry in his heart, was the last glimpse
Inspector Frawley was destined to have of him in many months. True,
Greenfield had not lied: the address was genuine, but the man was gone.
For days Frawley had the city scoured without gaining a clue. No steamer
had left the harbor, not even a tramp. If Greenfield was not in hiding,
he must have buried himself in the interior.

It was a week before Frawley found the track. Greenfield had walked
thirty miles into the country and taken the train for Rio Mendoza on the
route across the Andes to Valparaiso.

Frawley followed the same day, somewhat mystified at this sudden change
of base. In the train the thermometer stood at 116 deg.. The heat made of
everything a solitude. Frawley, lifeless, stifling, and numbed, glued
himself to the air-holes with eyes fastened on the horizon, while the
train sped across the naked, singeing back of the plains like the welt
that springs to meet the fall of the lash. For two nights he watched the
distended sun, exhausted by its own madness, drop back into the heated
void, and the tortured stars rise over the stricken desert. At the end
of thirty-six hours of agony he arrived at Rio Mendoza. Thence he
reached Punta de Vacas, procured mules and a guide, and prepared for
the ascent over the mountains.

At two o'clock the next morning he began to climb out of hell. The
tortured plains settled below him. A divine freshness breathed upon him
with a new hope of life. He left the burning conflict of summer and
passed into the aroma of spring.

Then the air grew intense, a new suffocation pressed about his
temples--the suffocation of too much life. In an hour he had run the
gamut of the seasons. The cold of everlasting winter descended and stung
his senses. Up and up and up they went--then suddenly down, with the
half-breed guide and the tireless mule always at the same distance
before him; and again began the insistent mechanical toiling upward. He
grew listless and indifferent, acquiescent in these steep efforts that
the next moment must throw away. The horror of immense distance rose
about him. From time to time a stone dislodged by their passage rushed
from under him, struck the brink, and spun into the void, to fall
endlessly. The face of the earth grew confused and dropped in a mist
from before his eyes.

Then as they toiled still upward, a gale as though sent in anger rushed
down upon them, sweeping up whirlwinds of snow, raging and shrieking,
dragging them to the brink, and threatening to blot them out.

Frawley clutched the saddle, then flung his arms about the neck of his
mule. His head was reeling, the indignant blood rushed to his nostrils
and his ears, his lungs no longer could master the divine air. Then
suddenly the mules stopped, exhausted. Through the maelstrom the guide
shrieked to him not to use the spur. Frawley felt himself in danger of
dying, and had no resentment.

For a day they affronted the immense wilds until they had forced
themselves thousands of feet above the race of men. Then they began to
descend.

Below them the clouds lapped and rolled like the elements before the
creation. Still they descended, and the moist oblivion closed about
them, like the curse of a world without color. The bleak mists separated
and began to roll up above them, a cloud split asunder, and through the
slit the earth jumped up, and the solid land spread before them as when
at the dawn it obeyed the will of the Creator. They saw the hills and
the mountains grow, and the rivers trickle toward the sea. The masses of
brown and green began to be splashed with red and yellow as the fields
became fertile and fructified; and the insect race of men began to crawl
to and fro.

The half-breed, who saw the scene for the hundredth time, bent his head
in awe. Frawley straightened in his saddle, stretched the stiffness out
of his limbs, patted his mule solicitously, glanced at the guide, and
stopped in perplexity at the mute, reverential attitude.

"What's he starin' at now?" he muttered in as then, with a glance at
his watch, he added anxiously, "I say, Sammy, when do we get a bit to
eat?"

V

In Valparaiso he readily found the track of Greenfield. Up to the time
of his departure, two boats had sailed: one for the north, and one by
the Straits of Magellan to Buenos Ayres. Greenfield had bought a ticket
for each, after effecting the withdrawal of his account at a local bank.
Frawley was in perplexity: for Greenfield to flee north was to run into
the jaws of the law. The withdrawal of the account decided him. He
returned to Buenos Ayres by the route he had come, arriving the day
before the steamer. To his discomfiture Greenfield was not on board. By
ridiculously casting away his protection he had thrown the detective off
the track and gained three weeks. Without more concern than he might
have shown in taking a trip from Toronto to New York, Frawley a third
time crossed the Andes and set himself to correcting his first error.

He traced Greenfield laboriously up the coast back to Panama and there
lost the trail. At the end of two months he learned that Greenfield had
shipped as a common sailor on a freighter that touched at Hawaii. From
here he followed him to Yokohama, Singapore, Ceylon, and Bombay.

Thence Greenfield, suddenly abandoning the water route, had proceeded
by land to Bagdad, and across the Turkish Empire to Constantinople.
Without a pause, Frawley traced him next into the Balkans, through
Bulgaria, Roumania, amid massacre and revolution to Budapest, back to
Odessa, and across the back of Russia by Moscow and Riga to Stockholm. A
year had elapsed.

Several times he might have gained on the fugitive had he trusted to his
instinct; but he bided his time, renouncing a stroke of genius, in order
to be certain of committing no error, awaiting the moment when
Greenfield would pause and he might overtake him. But the fugitive, as
though stung by a gad-fly, continued to plunge madly over sea and
continent. Four months, five months behind, Frawley continued the
tireless pursuit.

From Stockholm the chase led to Copenhagen, to Christiansand, down the
North Sea to Rotterdam. From thence Greenfield had rushed by rail to
Lisbon and taken steamer to Africa, touching at Gibraltar, Portuguese
and French Guinea, Sierra Leone, and proceeding thence into the Congo.
For a month all traces disappeared in the veldt, until by chance, rather
than by his own merits, Frawley found the trail anew in Madagascar,
whither Greenfield had come after a desperate attempt to bury his trail
on the immense plains of Southern Africa.

From Madagascar, Frawley followed him to Aden in Arabia and by steamer
to Melbourne. Again for weeks he sought the confused track vainly
through Australia, up through Sydney, down again to Tasmania and New
Zealand on a false clue, back to Queensland, where at last in Cooktown
he learned anew of the passing of his man.

The third year began without appreciable gain. Greenfield still was
three months in advance, never pausing, scurrying from continent to
continent, as though instinctively aware of the progress of his pursuer.

In this year Frawley visited Sumatra, Java, and Borneo, stopped at
Manila, jumped immediately to Korea, and hurried on to Vladivostok,
where he found that Greenfield had procured passage on a sealer bound
for Auckland. There he had taken the steamer by the Straits of Magellan
back to Buenos Ayres.

There, within the first hour, he heard a report that his man had gone on
to Rio Janeiro, caught the cholera, and died there. Undaunted by the
epidemic, Frawley took the next boat and entered the stricken city by
swimming ashore. For a week he searched the hospitals and the
cemeteries. Greenfield had indeed been stricken, but, escaping with his
life, had left for the northern part of Brazil. The delay resulted in a
gain of three months for Frawley, but without heat or excitement he
began anew the pursuit, passing up the coast to Para and the mouth of
the Amazon, by Bogota and Panama into Mexico, on up toward the border
of Texas. The months between him and Greenfield shortened to weeks, then
to days without troubling his equanimity. At El Paso he arrived a few
hours after Greenfield had left, going toward the Salt Basin and the
Guadalupe Mountains. Frawley took horses and a guide and followed to the
edge of the desert. At three o'clock in the afternoon a horseman grew
out of the horizon, a figure that remained stationary and attentive,
studying his approach through a spy-glass. Suddenly, as though
satisfied, the stranger took off his hat and waved it above his head in
challenge, and digging his heels into his horse, disappeared into the
desert.

VI

Frawley understood the challenge--the end was to be in the desert.
Failing to move his guide by threat or promise, he left him clamoring
frantically on the edge of the desert and rode on toward where the
figure of Greenfield had disappeared on the horizon in a puff of dust.

For three days they went their way grimly into the parched sands,
husbanding every particle of strength, within plain sight of each other,
always at the same unvarying walk. At night they slept by fits and
starts, with an ear trained for the slightest hostile sound. Then they
cast aside their saddles, their rifles, and superfluous clothing, in a
vain effort to save their mounts.

The horses, heaving and staggering, crawled over the yielding sands
like silhouettes drawn by a thread. In the sky not a cloud appeared;
below, the yellow monotony extended as flat as a dish. Above them a lazy
buzzard, wheeling in languid circles, followed with patient conviction.

On the fourth morning Frawley's horse stopped, shuddered, and went down
in a heap. Greenfield halted and surveyed his discomfiture grimly,
without a sign of elation.

"That's bad, very bad," Frawley said judicially. "I ought to have sent
word to the department. Still, it's not over yet--his horse won't last
long. Well, I mustn't carry much."

He abandoned his revolver, a knife, $200 in gold, and continued on foot,
preserving only the water-bag with its precious mouthful. Greenfield,
who had waited immovably, allowed him to approach within a quarter of a
mile before putting his horse in motion.

"He's going to make sure I stay here," said Frawley to himself, seeing
that Greenfield made no attempt to increase the lead. "Well, we'll see."

Twelve hours later Greenfield's horse gave out. Frawley uttered a cry of
joy, but the handicap of half a day was a serious one; he was exhausted,
famished, and in the bag there remained only sufficient water to moisten
his lips.

The fifth day broke with an angry sun and no sign on the horizon to
relieve the eternal monotony. Only the buzzard at the same distance
aloft bided his time. Hunter and hunted, united perforce by their common
suffering, plodded on with the weary, hopeless straining of human beings
harnessed to a plow, covering scarcely a mile an hour. From time to
time, by common consent, they sat down, gaunt, exhausted figures, eyeing
each other with the instinct of beasts, their elbows on their bony
knees. Whether from a fear of losing energy, whether under the spell of
the frightful stillness, neither had uttered a word.

Frawley was afire with thirst. The desert entered his body with its dry
mortal heat, and ran its consuming dryness through his veins; his eyes

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