Part 3 out of 5
Danby and Strong Piccadilly collar jumped at once into great
popularity, and the wonder is that the linen collar ever recovered from
the blow dealt it by this ingenious invention.
Curiously enough, during the time the firm was struggling to establish
itself, the two members of it were the best of friends, but when
prosperity came to them, causes of difference arose, and their
relations, as the papers say of warlike nations, became strained.
Whether the fault lay with John Danby or with William Strong no one has
ever been able to find out. They had mutual friends who claimed that
each one of them was a good fellow, but those friends always added that
Strong and Danby did not "hit it off."
Strong was a bitter man when aroused, and could generally be counted
upon to use harsh language. Danby was quieter, but there was a sullen
streak of stubbornness in him that did not tend to the making up of a
quarrel. They had been past the speaking point for more than a year,
when there came a crisis in their relations with each other, that ended
in disaster to the business carried on under the title of Danby and
Strong. Neither man would budge, and between them the business sunk to
ruin. Where competition is fierce no firm can stand against it if there
is internal dissension. Danby held his ground quietly but firmly,
Strong raged and cursed, but was equally steadfast in not yielding a
point. Each hated the other so bitterly that each was willing to lose
his own share in a profitable business, if by doing so he could bring
ruin on his partner.
We are all rather prone to be misled by appearances. As one walks down
Piccadilly, or the Strand, or Fleet Street and meets numerous
irreproachably dressed men with glossy tall hats and polished boots,
with affable manners and a courteous way of deporting themselves toward
their fellows, we are apt to fall into the fallacy of believing that
these gentlemen are civilised. We fail to realise that if you probe in
the right direction you will come upon possibilities of savagery that
would draw forth the warmest commendation from a Pawnee Indian. There
are reputable business men in London who would, if they dared, tie an
enemy to a stake and roast him over a slow fire, and these men have
succeeded so well, not only in deceiving their neighbours, but also
themselves, that they would actually be offended if you told them so.
If law were suspended in London for one day, during which time none of
us would be held answerable for any deed then done, how many of us
would be alive next morning? Most of us would go out to pot some
favourite enemy, and would doubtless be potted ourselves before we got
safely home again.
The law, however, is a great restrainer, and helps to keep the death-
rate from reaching excessive proportions. One department of the law
crushed out the remnant of the business of Messrs. Danby and Strong,
leaving the firm bankrupt, while another department of the law
prevented either of the partners taking the life of the other.
When Strong found himself penniless, he cursed, as was his habit, and
wrote to a friend in Texas asking if he could get anything to do over
there. He was tired of a country of law and order, he said, which was
not as complimentary to Texas as it might have been. But his remark
only goes to show what extraordinary ideas Englishmen have of foreign
parts. The friend's answer was not very encouraging, but, nevertheless,
Strong got himself out there somehow, and in course of time became a
cowboy. He grew reasonably expert with his revolver and rode a mustang
as well as could be expected, considering that he had never seen such
an animal in London, even at the Zoo. The life of a cowboy on a Texas
ranch leads to the forgetting of such things as linen shirts and paper
Strong's hatred of Danby never ceased, but he began to think of him
One day, when he least expected it, the subject was brought to his mind
in a manner that startled him. He was in Galveston ordering supplies
for the ranch, when in passing a shop which he would have called a
draper's, but which was there designated as dealing in dry goods, he
was amazed to see the name "Danby and Strong" in big letters at the
bottom of a huge pile of small cardboard boxes that filled the whole
window. At first the name merely struck him as familiar, and he came
near asking himself "Where have I seen that before?" It was some
moments before he realised that the Strong stood for the man gazing
stupidly in at the plate-glass window. Then he noticed that the boxes
were all guaranteed to contain the famous Piccadilly collar. He read in
a dazed manner a large printed bill which stood beside the pile of
boxes. These collars it seemed, were warranted to be the genuine Danby
and Strong collar, and the public was warned against imitations. They
were asserted to be London made and linen faced, and the gratifying
information was added that once a person wore the D. and S. collar he
never afterwards relapsed into wearing any inferior brand. The price of
each box was fifteen cents, or two boxes for a quarter. Strong found
himself making a mental calculation which resulted in turning this
notation into English money.
As he stood there a new interest began to fill his mind. Was the firm
being carried on under the old name by some one else, or did this lot
of collars represent part of the old stock? He had had no news from
home since he left, and the bitter thought occurred to him that perhaps
Danby had got somebody with capital to aid him in resuscitating the
business. He resolved to go inside and get some information.
"You seem to have a very large stock of those collars on hand," he said
to the man who was evidently the proprietor.
"Yes," was the answer. "You see, we are the State agents for this make.
We supply the country dealers."
"Oh, do you? Is the firm of Danby and Strong still in existence? I
understood it had suspended."
"I guess not," said the man. "They supply us all right enough. Still, I
really know nothing about the firm, except that they turn out a first-
class article. We're not in any way responsible for Danby and Strong;
we're merely agents for the State of Texas, you know," the man added,
with sudden caution.
"I have nothing against the firm," said Strong. "I asked because I once
knew some members of it, and was wondering how it was getting along."
"Well, in that case you ought to see the American representative. He
was here this week ... that's why we make such a display in the window,
it always pleases the agent ... he's now working up the State and will
be back in Galveston before the month is out."
"What's his name? Do you remember?"
"Danby. George Danby, I think. Here's his card. No, John Danby is the
name. I thought it was George. Most Englishmen are George, you know."
Strong looked at the card, but the lettering seemed to waver before his
eyes. He made out, however, that Mr. John Danby had an address in New
York, and that he was the American representative of the firm of Danby
and Strong, London. Strong placed the card on the counter before him.
"I used to know Mr. Danby, and I would like to meet him. Where do you
think I could find him?"
"Well, as I said before, you could see him right here in Galveston if
you wait a month, but if you are in a hurry you might catch him at
Broncho Junction on Thursday night."
"He is travelling by rail then?"
"No, he is not. He went by rail as far as Felixopolis. There he takes a
horse, and goes across the prairies to Broncho Junction; a three days'
journey. I told him he wouldn't do much business on that route, but he
said he was going partly for his health, and partly to see the country.
He expected to reach Broncho Thursday night." The dry goods merchant
laughed as one who suddenly remembers a pleasant circumstance. "You're
an Englishman, I take it."
"Well, I must say you folks have queer notions about this country.
Danby, who was going for a three days' journey across the plains,
bought himself two Colts revolvers, and a knife half as long as my arm.
Now I've travelled all over this State, and never carried a gun, but I
couldn't get Danby to believe his route was as safe as a church. Of
course, now and then in Texas a cowboy shoots off his gun, but it's
more often his mouth, and I don't believe there's more killing done in
Texas than in any other bit of land the same size. But you can't get an
Englishman to believe that. You folks are an awful law-abiding crowd.
For my part I would sooner stand my chance with a revolver than a
lawsuit any day." Then the good-natured Texan told the story of the
pistol in Texas; of the general lack of demand for it, but the great
necessity of having it handy when it was called for.
A man with murder in his heart should not hold a conversation like
this, but William Strong was too full of one idea to think of prudence.
Such a talk sets the hounds of justice on the right trail, with
unpleasant results for the criminal.
On Thursday morning Strong set out on horse-back from Broncho Junction
with his face towards Felixopolis. By noon he said to himself he ought
to meet his former partner with nothing but the horizon around them.
Besides the revolvers in his belt, Strong had a Winchester rifle in
front of him. He did not know but he might have to shoot at long range,
and it was always well to prepare for eventualities. Twelve o'clock
came, but he met no one, and there was nothing in sight around the
empty circle of the horizon. It was nearly two before he saw a moving
dot ahead of him. Danby was evidently unused to riding and had come
leisurely. Some time before they met, Strong recognised his former
partner and he got his rifle ready.
"Throw up your hands!" he shouted, bringing his rifle butt to his
Danby instantly raised his hands above his head. "I have no money on
me," he cried, evidently not recognising his opponent. "You may search
me if you like."
"Get down off your horse; don't lower your hands, or I fire."
Danby got down, as well as he could, with his hands above his head.
Strong had thrown his right leg over to the left side of the horse,
and, as his enemy got down, he also slid to the ground, keeping Danby
covered with the rifle.
"I assure you I have only a few dollars with me, which you are quite
welcome to," said Danby.
Strong did not answer. Seeing that the firing was to be at short range,
he took a six-shooter from his belt, and, cocking it, covered his man,
throwing the rifle on the grass. He walked up to his enemy, placed the
muzzle of the revolver against his rapidly beating heart, and leisurely
disarmed him, throwing Danby's weapons on the ground out of reach. Then
he stood back a few paces and looked at the trembling man. His face
seemed to have already taken on the hue of death and his lips were
"I see you recognise me at last, Mr. Danby. This is an unexpected
meeting, is it not? You realise, I hope, that there are here no judges,
juries, nor lawyers, no _mandamuses_ and no appeals. Nothing but a
writ of ejectment from the barrel of a pistol and no legal way of
staying the proceedings. In other words, no cursed quibbles and no
Danby, after several times moistening his pallid lips, found his voice.
"Do you mean to give me a chance, or are you going to murder me?"
"I am going to murder you."
Danby closed his eyes, let his hands drop to his sides, and swayed
gently from side to side as a man does on the scaffold just before the
bolt is drawn. Strong lowered his revolver and fired, shattering one
knee of the doomed man. Danby dropped with a cry that was drowned by
the second report. The second bullet put out his left eye, and the
murdered man lay with his mutilated face turned up to the blue sky.
A revolver report on the prairies is short, sharp, and echoless. The
silence that followed seemed intense and boundless, as if nowhere on
earth there was such a thing as sound. The man on his back gave an
awesome touch of the eternal to the stillness.
Strong, now that it was all over, began to realise his position. Texas,
perhaps, paid too little heed to life lost in fair fight, but she had
an uncomfortable habit of putting a rope round the neck of a cowardly
murderer. Strong was an inventor by nature. He proceeded to invent his
justification. He took one of Danby's revolvers and fired two shots out
of it into the empty air. This would show that the dead man had
defended himself at least, and it would be difficult to prove that he
had not been the first to fire. He placed the other pistol and the
knife in their places in Danby's belt. He took Danby's right hand while
it was still warm and closed the fingers around the butt of the
revolver from which he had fired, placing the forefinger on the trigger
of the cocked six-shooter. To give effect and naturalness to the
tableau he was arranging for the benefit of the next traveller by that
trail, he drew up the right knee and put revolver and closed hand on it
as if Danby had been killed while just about to fire his third shot.
Strong, with the pride of a true artist in his work, stepped back a
pace or two for the purpose of seeing the effect of his work as a
whole. As Danby fell, the back of his head had struck a lump of soil or
a tuft of grass which threw the chin forward on the breast. As Strong
looked at his victim his heart jumped, and a sort of hypnotic fear took
possession of him and paralysed action at its source. Danby was not yet
dead. His right eye was open, and it glared at Strong with a malice and
hatred that mesmerised the murderer and held him there, although he
felt rather than knew he was covered by the cocked revolver he had
placed in what he thought was a dead hand. Danby's lips moved but no
sound came from them. Strong could not take his fascinated gaze from
the open eye. He knew he was a dead man if Danby had strength to crook
his finger, yet he could not take the leap that would bring him out of
range. The fifth pistol-shot rang out and Strong pitched forward on his
The firm of Danby and Strong was dissolved.
A MODERN SAMSON.
A little more and Jean Rasteaux would have been a giant. Brittany men
are small as a rule, but Jean was an exception. He was a powerful young
fellow who, up to the time he was compelled to enter the army, had
spent his life in dragging heavy nets over the sides of a boat. He knew
the Brittany coast, rugged and indented as it is, as well as he knew
the road from the little cafe on the square to the dwelling of his
father on the hillside overlooking the sea. Never before had he been
out of sound of the waves. He was a man who, like Herve Riel, might
have saved the fleet, but France, with the usual good sense of
officialism, sent this man of the coast into the mountains, and Jean
Rasteaux became a soldier in the Alpine Corps. If he stood on the
highest mountain peak, Jean might look over illimitable wastes of snow,
but he could catch neither sound nor sight of the sea.
Men who mix with mountains become as rough and rugged as the rocks, and
the Alpine Corps was a wild body, harsh and brutal. Punishment in the
ranks was swift and terrible, for the corps was situated far from any
of the civilising things of modern life, and deeds were done which the
world knew not of; deeds which would not have been approved if reported
The regiment of which Jean became a unit was stationed in a high valley
that had but one outlet, a wild pass down which a mountain river roared
and foamed and tossed. The narrow path by the side of this stream was
the only way out of or into the valley, for all around, the little
plateau was walled in by immense peaks of everlasting snow, dazzling in
the sunlight, and luminous even in the still, dark nights. From the
peaks to the south, Italy might have been seen, but no man had ever
dared to climb any of them. The angry little river was fed from a
glacier whose blue breast lay sparkling in the sunshine to the south,
and the stream circumnavigated the enclosed plateau, as if trying to
find an outlet for its tossing waters.
Jean was terribly lonely in these dreary and unaccustomed solitudes.
The white mountains awed him, and the mad roar of the river seemed but
poor compensation for the dignified measured thunder of the waves on
the broad sands of the Brittany coast.
But Jean was a good-natured giant, and he strove to do whatever was
required of him. He was not quick at repartee, and the men mocked his
Breton dialect. He became the butt for all their small and often mean
jokes, and from the first he was very miserable, for, added to his
yearning for the sea, whose steady roar he heard in his dreams at
night, he felt the utter lack of all human sympathy.
At first he endeavoured, by unfailing good nature and prompt obedience,
to win the regard of his fellows, and he became in a measure the slave
of the regiment; but the more he tried to please the more his burden
increased, and the greater were the insults he was compelled to bear
from both officers and men. It was so easy to bully this giant, whom
they nicknamed Samson, that even the smallest men in the regiment felt
at liberty to swear at him or cuff him if necessary.
But at last Samson's good nature seemed to be wearing out. His stock
was becoming exhausted, and his comrades forgot that the Bretons for
hundreds of years have been successful fighters, and that the blood of
contention flows in their veins.
Although the Alpine Corps, as a general thing, contain the largest and
strongest men in the French Army, yet the average French soldier may be
termed undersized when compared with the military of either England or
Germany. There were several physically small men in the regiment, and
one of these, like a diminutive gnat, was Samson's worst persecutor. As
there was no other man in the regiment whom the gnat could bully,
Samson received more than even he could be expected to bear. One day
the gnat ordered Samson to bring him a pail of water from the stream,
and the big man unhesitatingly obeyed. He spilled some of it coming up
the bank, and when he delivered it to the little man, the latter abused
him for not bringing the pail full, and as several of the larger
soldiers, who had all in their turn made Samson miserable, were
standing about, the little man picked up the pail of water and dashed
it into Samson's face. It was such a good opportunity for showing off
before the big men, who removed their pipes from their mouths and
laughed loudly as Samson with his knuckles tried to take the water out
of his eyes. Then Samson did an astonishing thing.
"You miserable, little insignificant rat," he cried. "I could crush
you, but you are not worth it. But to show you that I am not afraid of
any of you, there, and there!"
As he said these two words with emphasis, he struck out from the
shoulder, not at the little man, but at the two biggest men in the
regiment, and felled them like logs to the ground.
A cry of rage went up from their comrades, but bullies are cowards at
heart, and while Samson glared around at them, no one made a move.
The matter was reported to the officer, and Samson was placed under
arrest. When the inquiry was held the officer expressed his
astonishment at the fact that Samson hit two men who had nothing to do
with the insult he had received, while the real culprit had been
allowed to go unpunished.
"They deserved it," said Samson, sullenly, "for what they had done
before. I could not strike the little man. I should have killed him."
"Silence!" cried the officer. "You must not answer me like that."
"I shall answer you as I like," said Samson, doggedly.
The officer sprang to his feet, with a lithe rattan cane in his hand,
and struck the insubordinate soldier twice across the face, each time
raising an angry red mark.
Before the guards had time to interfere, Samson sprang upon the
officer, lifted him like a child above his head, and dashed him with a
sickening crash to the ground, where he lay motionless.
A cry of horror went up from every one present.
"I have had enough," cried Samson, turning to go, but he was met by a
bristling hedge of steel. He was like a rat in a trap. He stood
defiantly there, a man maddened by oppression, and glared around
Whatever might have been his punishment for striking his comrades,
there was no doubt now about his fate. The guard-house was a rude hut
of logs situated on the banks of the roaring stream. Into this room
Samson was flung, bound hand and foot, to await the court-martial next
day. The shattered officer, whose sword had broken in pieces under him,
slowly revived and was carried to his quarters. A sentry marched up and
down all night before the guard-house.
In the morning, when Samson was sent for, the guard-house was found to
be empty. The huge Breton had broken his bonds as did Samson of old. He
had pushed out a log of wood from the wall, and had squeezed himself
through to the bank of the stream. There all trace of him was lost. If
he had fallen in, then of course he had sentenced and executed himself,
but in the mud near the water were great footprints which no boot but
that of Samson could have made; so if he were in the stream it must
have been because he threw himself there. The trend of the footprints,
however, indicated that he had climbed on the rocks, and there, of
course, it was impossible to trace him. The sentries who guarded the
pass maintained that no one had gone through during the night, but to
make sure several men were sent down the path to overtake the runaway.
Even if he reached a town or a village far below, so huge a man could
not escape notice. The searchers were instructed to telegraph his
description and his crime as soon as they reached a telegraph wire. It
was impossible to hide in the valley, and a rapid search speedily
convinced the officers that the delinquent was not there.
As the sun rose higher and higher, until it began to shine even on the
northward-facing snow fields, a sharp-eyed private reported that he saw
a black speck moving high up on the great white slope south of the
valley. The officer called for a field-glass, and placing it to his
eyes, examined the snow carefully.
"Call out a detachment," he said, "that is Samson on the mountain."
There was a great stir in the camp when the truth became known.
Emissaries were sent after the searchers down the pass, calling them to
"He thinks to get to Italy," said the officer. "I did not imagine the
fool knew so much of geography. We have him now secure enough."
The officer who had been flung over Samson's head was now able to
hobble about, and he was exceedingly bitter. Shading his eyes and
gazing at the snow, he said--
"A good marksman ought to be able to bring him down."
"There is no need of that," replied his superior. "He cannot escape. We
have nothing to do but to wait for him. He will have to come down."
All of which was perfectly true.
A detachment crossed the stream and stacked its arms at the foot of the
mountain which Samson was trying to climb. There was a small level
place a few yards wide between the bottom of the hill and the bank of
the raging stream. On this bit of level ground the soldiers lay in the
sun and smoked, while the officers stood in a group and watched the
climbing man going steadily upward.
For a short distance up from the plateau there was stunted grass and
moss, with dark points of rock protruding from the scant soil. Above
that again was a breadth of dirty snow which, now that the sun was
strong, sent little trickling streams down to the river. From there to
the long ridge of the mountain extended upwards the vast smooth slope
of virgin snow, pure and white, sparkling in the strong sunlight as if
it had been sprinkled with diamond dust. A black speck against this
tremendous field of white, the giant struggled on, and they could see
by the glass that he sunk to the knee in the softening snow.
"Now," said the officer, "he is beginning to understand his situation."
Through the glass they saw Samson pause. From below it seemed as if the
snow were as smooth as a sloping roof, but even to the naked eye a
shadow crossed it near the top. That shadow was a tremendous ridge of
overhanging snow more than a hundred feet deep; and Samson now paused
as he realised that it was insurmountable. He looked down and
undoubtedly saw a part of the regiment waiting for him below. He turned
and plodded slowly under the overhanging ridge until he came to the
precipice at his left. It was a thousand feet sheer down. He retraced
his steps and walked to the similar precipice at the right. Then he
came again to the middle of the great T which his footmarks had made on
that virgin slope. He sat down in the snow.
No one will ever know what a moment of despair the Breton must have
passed through when he realised the hopelessness of his toil.
The officer who was gazing through the glass at him dropped his hand to
his side and laughed.
"The nature of the situation," he said, "has at last dawned upon him.
It took a long time to get an appreciation of it through his thick
"Let me have the glass a moment," said another. "He has made up his
mind about something."
The officer did not realise the full significance of what he saw
through the glass. In spite of their conceit, their skulls were thicker
than that of the persecuted Breton fisherman.
Samson for a moment turned his face to the north and raised his face
towards heaven. Whether it was an appeal to the saints he believed in,
or an invocation to the distant ocean he was never more to look upon,
who can tell?
After a moment's pause he flung himself headlong down the slope towards
the section of the regiment which lounged on the bank of the river.
Over and over he rolled, and then in place of the black figure there
came downwards a white ball, gathering bulk at every bound.
It was several seconds before the significance of what they were gazing
at burst upon officers and men. It came upon them simultaneously, and
with it a wild panic of fear. In the still air a low sullen roar arose.
"An avalanche! An avalanche!!" they cried.
The men and officers were hemmed in by the boiling torrent. Some of
them plunged in to get to the other side, but the moment the water laid
hold of them their heels were whirled into the air, and they
disappeared helplessly down the rapids.
Samson was hours going up the mountain, but only seconds coming down.
Like an overwhelming wave came the white crest of the avalanche,
sweeping officers and men into and over the stream and far across the
There was one mingled shriek which made itself heard through the sullen
roar of the snow, then all was silence. The hemmed-in waters rose high
and soon forced its way through the white barrier.
When the remainder of the regiment dug out from the debris the bodies
of their comrades they found a fixed look of the wildest terror on
every face except one. Samson himself, without an unbroken bone in his
body, slept as calmly as if he rested under the blue waters on the
coast of Brittany.
A DEAL ON 'CHANGE
It was in the days when drawing-rooms were dark, and filled with bric-
a-brac. The darkness enabled the half-blinded visitor, coming in out of
the bright light, to knock over gracefully a $200 vase that had come
from Japan to meet disaster in New York.
In a corner of the room was seated, in a deep and luxurious armchair, a
most beautiful woman. She was the wife of the son of the richest man in
America; she was young; her husband was devotedly fond of her; she was
mistress of a palace; anything that money could buy was hers did she
but express the wish; but she was weeping softly, and had just made up
her mind that she was the most miserable creature in all the land.
If a stranger had entered the room he would first have been impressed
by the fact that he was looking at the prettiest woman he had ever
seen; then he would have been haunted by the idea that he had met her
somewhere before. If he were a man moving in artistic circles he might
perhaps remember that he had seen her face looking down at him from
various canvases in picture exhibitions, and unless he were a stranger
to the gossip of the country he could hardly help recollecting the
dreadful fuss the papers made, as if it were any business of theirs,
when young Ed. Druce married the artists' model, celebrated for her
Every one has read the story of that marriage; goodness knows, the
papers made the most of it, as is their custom. Young Ed., who knew
much more of the world than did his father, expected stern opposition,
and, knowing the unlimited power unlimited wealth gave to the old man,
he did not risk an interview with his parent, but eloped with the girl.
The first inkling old man Druce had of the affair was from a vivid
sensational account of the runaway in an evening paper. He was pictured
in the paper as an implacable father who was at that moment searching
for the elopers with a shot gun. Old Druce had been too often the
central figure of a journalistic sensation to mind what the sheet said.
He promptly telegraphed all over the country, and, getting into
communication with his son, asked him (electrically) as a favour to
bring his young wife home, and not make a fool of himself. So the
errant pair, much relieved, came back to New York.
Old Druce was a taciturn man, even with his only son. He wondered at
first that the boy should have so misjudged him as to suppose he would
raise objections, no matter whom the lad wished to marry. He was
bewildered rather than enlightened when Ed. told him he feared
opposition because the girl was poor. What difference on earth did
_that_ make? Had he not money enough for all of them? If not, was
there any trouble in adding to their store? Were there not railroads to
be wrecked; stockholders to be fleeced; Wall Street lambs to be shorn?
Surely a man married to please himself and not to make money. Ed
assured the old man that cases had been known where a suspicion of
mercenary motives had hovered round a matrimonial alliance, but Druce
expressed the utmost contempt for such a state of things.
At first Ella had been rather afraid of her silent father-in-law, whose
very name made hundreds tremble and thousands curse, but she soon
discovered that the old man actually stood in awe of her, and that his
apparent brusqueness was the mere awkwardness he felt when in her
presence. He was anxious to please her, and worried himself wondering
whether there was anything she wanted.
One day he fumblingly dropped a cheque for a million dollars in her
lap, and, with some nervous confusion, asked her to run out, like a
good girl, and buy herself something; if that wasn't enough, she was to
call on him for more. The girl sprang from her chair and threw her arms
around his neck, much to the old man's embarrassment, who was not
accustomed to such a situation. She kissed him in spite of himself,
allowing the cheque to flutter to the floor, the most valuable bit of
paper floating around loose in America that day.
When he reached his office he surprised his son. He shook his fist in
the young fellow's face, and said sternly--
"If you ever say a cross word to that little girl, I'll do what I've
never done yet--I'll thrash you!"
The young man laughed.
"All right, father. I'll deserve a thrashing in that case."
The old man became almost genial whenever he thought of his pretty
daughter-in-law. "My little girl," he always called her. At first, Wall
Street men said old Druce was getting into his dotage, but when a nip
came in the market and they found that, as usual, the old man was on
the right side of the fence, they were compelled reluctantly to admit,
with emptier pockets, that the dotage had not yet interfered with the
financial corner of old Druce's mind.
As young Mrs. Druce sat disconsolately in her drawing-room, the
curtains parted gently, and her father-in-law entered stealthily, as if
he were a thief, which indeed he was, and the very greatest of them.
Druce had small, shifty piercing eyes that peered out from under his
grey bushy eyebrows like two steel sparks. He never seemed to be
looking directly at any one, and his eyes somehow gave you the idea
that they were trying to glance back over his shoulder, as if he feared
pursuit. Some said that old Druce was in constant terror of
assassination, while others held that he knew the devil was on his
track and would ultimately nab him.
"I pity the devil when that day comes," young Sneed said once when some
one had made the usual remark about Druce. This echoed the general
feeling prevalent in Wall Street regarding the encounter that was
admitted by all to be inevitable.
The old man stopped in the middle of the room when he noticed that his
daughter-in-law was crying. "Dear, dear!" he said; "what is the matter?
Has Edward been saying anything cross to you?"
"No, papa," answered the girl. "Nobody could be kinder to me than Ed
is. There is nothing really the matter." Then, to put the truth of her
statement beyond all question, she began to cry afresh.
The old man sat down beside her, taking one hand in his own. "Money?"
he asked in an eager whisper that seemed to say he saw a solution of
the difficulty if it were financial.
"Oh dear no. I have all the money, and more that anyone can wish."
The old man's countenance fell. If money would not remedy the state of
things, then he was out of his depth.
"Won't you tell me the trouble? Perhaps I can suggest--"
"It's nothing you can help in, papa. It is nothing much, any way. The
Misses Sneed won't call on me, that's all."
The old man knit his brows and thoughtfully scratched his chin.
"Won't call?" he echoed helplessly.
"No. They think I'm not good enough to associate with them, I suppose."
The bushy eyebrows came down until they almost obscured the eyes, and a
dangerous light seemed to scintillate out from under them.
"You must be mistaken. Good gracious, I am worth ten times what old
Sneed is. Not good enough? Why, my name on a cheque is--"
"It isn't a question of cheques, papa," wailed the girl; "it's a
question of society. I was a painter's model before I married Ed., and,
no matter how rich I am, society won't have anything to do with me."
The old man absent-mindedly rubbed his chin, which was a habit he had
when perplexed. He was face to face with a problem entirely outside his
province. Suddenly a happy thought struck him.
"Those Sneed women!" he said in tones of great contempt, "what do
_they_ amount to, anyhow? They're nothing but sour old maids. They
never were half so pretty as you. Why should you care whether they
called on you or not."
"They represent society. If they came, others would."
"But society can't have anything against you. Nobody has ever said a
word against your character, model or no model."
The girl shook her head hopelessly.
"Character does not count in society."
In this statement she was of course absurdly wrong, but she felt bitter
at all the world. Those who know society are well aware that character
counts for everything within its sacred precincts. So the unjust remark
should not be set down to the discredit of an inexperienced girl.
"I'll tell you what I'll do," cried the old man, brightening up. "I'll
speak to Gen. Sneed to-morrow. I'll arrange the whole business in five
"Do you think that would do any good?" asked young Mrs. Druce,
"Good? You bet it'll do good! It will settle the whole thing. I've
helped Sneed out of a pinch before now, and he'll fix up a little
matter like that for me in no time. I'll just have a quiet talk with
the General to-morrow, and you'll see the Sneed carriage at the door
next day at the very latest." He patted her smooth white hand
affectionately. "So don't you trouble, little girl, about trifles; and
whenever you want help, you just tell the old man. He knows a thing or
two yet, whether it is on Wall Street or Fifth Avenue."
Sneed was known in New York as the General, probably because he had
absolutely no military experience whatever. Next to Druce he had the
most power in the financial world of America, but there was a great
distance between the first and the second. If it came to a deal in
which the General and all the world stood against Druce, the average
Wall Street man would have bet on Druce against the whole combination.
Besides this, the General had the reputation of being a "square" man,
and that naturally told against him, for every one knew that Druce was
utterly unscrupulous. But if Druce and Sneed were known to be together
in a deal, then the financial world of New York ran for shelter.
Therefore when New York saw old Druce come in with the stealthy tread
of a two-legged leopard and glance furtively around the great room,
singling out Sneed with an almost imperceptible side nod, retiring with
him into a remote corner where more ruin had been concocted than on any
other spot on earth, and talking there eagerly with him, a hush fell on
the vast assemblage of men, and for the moment the financial heart of
the nation ceased to beat. When they saw Sneed take out his note-book,
nodding assent to whatever proposition Druce was making, a cold shiver
ran up the financial backbone of New York; the shiver communicated
itself to the electric nerve-web of the world, and storm signals began
to fly in the monetary centres of London, Paris, Berlin, and Vienna.
Uncertainty paralysed the markets of the earth because two old gamblers
were holding a whispered conversation with a multitude of men watching
them out of the corners of their eyes.
"I'd give half a million to know what those two old fiends are
concocting," said John P. Buller, the great wheat operator; and he
meant it; which goes to show that a man does not really know what he
wants, and would be very dissatisfied if he got it.
"Look here, General," said Druce, "I want you to do me a favour."
"All right," replied the General. "I'm with you."
"It's about my little girl," continued Druce, rubbing his chin, not
knowing just how to explain matters in the cold financial atmosphere of
the place in which they found themselves.
"Oh! About Ed.'s wife," said Sneed, looking puzzled.
"Yes. She's fretting her heart out because your two girls won't call
upon her. I found her crying about it yesterday afternoon."
"Won't call?" cried the General, a bewildered look coming over his
face. "Haven't they called yet? You see, I don't bother much about that
sort of thing."
"Neither do I. No, they haven't called. I don't suppose they mean
anything by it, but my little girl thinks they do, so I said I would
speak to you about it."
"Well, I'm glad you did. I'll see to that the moment I get home. What
time shall I tell them to call?" The innocent old man, little
comprehending what he was promising, pulled out his note-book and
pencil, looking inquiringly at Druce.
"Oh, I don't know. Any time that is convenient for them. I suppose
women know all about that. My little girl is at home most all
afternoon, I guess."
The two men cordially shook hands, and the market instantly collapsed.
It took three days for the financial situation to recover its tone.
Druce had not been visible, and that was all the more ominous. The
older operators did not relax their caution, because the blow had not
yet fallen. They shook their heads, and said the cyclone would be all
the worse when it came.
Old Druce came among them the third day, and there was a set look about
his lips which students of his countenance did not like. The situation
was complicated by the evident fact that the General was trying to
avoid him. At last, however, this was no longer possible, the two men
met, and after a word or two they walked up and down together. Druce
appeared to be saying little, and the firm set of his lips did not
relax, while the General talked rapidly and was seemingly making some
appeal that was not responded to. Stocks instantly went up a few
"You see, Druce, it's like this," the General was saying, "the women
have their world, and we have ours. They are, in a measure--"
"Are they going to call?" asked Druce curtly.
"Just let me finish what I was about to say. Women have their rules of
conduct, and we have--"
"Are they going to call?" repeated Druce, in the same hard tone of
The General removed his hat and drew his handkerchief across his brow
and over the bald spot on his head. He wished himself in any place but
where he was, inwardly cursing woman-kind and all their silly doings.
Bracing up after removing the moisture from his forehead, he took on an
"See here, Druce, hang it all, don't shove a man into a corner. Suppose
I asked you to go to Mrs. Ed. and tell her not to fret about trifles,
do you suppose she wouldn't, just because you wanted her not to? Come
Druce's silence encouraged the General to take it for assent.
"Very well, then. You're a bigger man than I am, and if you could do
nothing with one young woman anxious to please you, what do you expect
me to do with two old maids as set in their ways as the Palisades. It's
all dumb nonsense, anyhow."
Druce remained silent. After an irksome pause the hapless General
"As I said at first, women have their world, and we have ours. Now,
Druce, you're a man of solid common sense. What would you think if Mrs.
Ed. were to come here and insist on your buying Wabash stock when you
wanted to load up with Lake Shore? Look how absurd that would be. Very
well, then; we have no more right to interfere with the women than they
have to interfere with us."
"If my little girl wanted the whole Wabash System I'd buy it for her
to-morrow," said Druce, with rising anger.
"Lord! what a slump that would make in the market!" cried the General,
his feeling of discomfort being momentarily overcome by the
magnificence of Druce's suggestion. "However, all this doesn't need to
make any difference in our friendship. If I can be of any assistance
financially I shall only be too--"
"Oh, I need your financial assistance!" sneered Druce. He took his
defeat badly. However, in a minute or two, he pulled himself together
and seemed to shake off his trouble.
"What nonsense I am talking," he said when he had obtained control of
himself. "We all need assistance now and then, and none of us know when
we may need it badly. In fact, there is a little deal I intended to
speak to you about to-day, but this confounded business drove it out of
my mind. How much Gilt Edged security have you in your safe?"
"About three millions' worth," replied the General, brightening up, now
that they were off the thin ice.
"That will be enough for me if we can make a dicker. Suppose we adjourn
to your office. This is too public a place for a talk."
They went out together.
"So there is no ill-feeling?" said the General, as Druce arose to go
with the securities in his handbag.
"No. But we'll stick strictly to business after this, and leave social
questions alone. By the way, to show that there is no ill-feeling, will
you come with me for a blow on the sea? Suppose we say Friday. I have
just telegraphed for my yacht, and she will leave Newport to-night.
I'll have some good champagne on board."
"I thought sailors imagined Friday was an unlucky day!"
"My sailors don't. Will eight o'clock be too early for you? Twenty-
third Street wharf."
The General hesitated. Druce was wonderfully friendly all of a sudden,
and he knew enough of him to be just a trifle suspicious. But when he
recollected that Druce himself was going, he said, "Where could a
telegram reach us, if it were necessary to telegraph? The market is a
trifle shaky, and I don't like being out of town all day."
"The fact that we are both on the yacht will steady the market. But we
can drop in at Long Branch and receive despatches if you think it
"All right," said the General, much relieved. "I'll meet you at Twenty-
third Street at eight o'clock Friday morning, then."
Druce's yacht, the _Seahound_, was a magnificent steamer, almost
as large as an Atlantic liner. It was currently believed in New York
that Druce kept her for the sole purpose of being able to escape in
her, should an exasperated country ever rise in its might and demand
his blood. It was rumoured that the _Seahound_ was ballasted with
bars of solid gold and provisioned for a two years' cruise. Mr. Buller,
however, claimed that the tendency of nature was to revert to original
conditions, and that some fine morning Druce would hoist the black
flag, sail away, and become a _real_ pirate.
The great speculator, in a very nautical suit, was waiting for the
General when he drove up, and, the moment he came aboard, lines were
cast off and the Seahound steamed slowly down the bay. The morning was
rather thick, so they were obliged to move cautiously, and before they
reached the bar the fog came down so densely that they had to stop,
while bell rang and whistle blew. They were held there until it was
nearly eleven o'clock, but time passed quickly, for there were all the
morning papers to read, neither of the men having had an opportunity to
look at them before leaving the city.
As the fog cleared away and the engines began to move, the captain sent
down and asked Mr. Druce if he would come on deck for a moment. The
captain was a shrewd man, and understood his employer.
"There's a tug making for us, sir, signalling us to stop. Shall we
Old Druce rubbed his chin thoughtfully, and looked over the stern of
the yacht. He saw a tug, with a banner of black smoke, tearing after
them, heaping up a ridge of white foam ahead of her. Some flags
fluttered from the single mast in front, and she shattered the air with
short hoarse shrieks of the whistle.
"Can she overtake us?"
The captain smiled. "Nothing in the harbour can overtake us, sir."
"Very well. Full steam ahead. Don't answer the signals. You did not
happen to see them, you know!"
"Quite so, sir," replied the captain, going forward.
Although the motion of the _Seahound's_ engines could hardly be
felt, the tug, in spite of all her efforts, did not seem to be gaining.
When the yacht put on her speed the little steamer gradually fell
farther and farther behind, and at last gave up the hopeless chase.
When well out at sea something went wrong with the engines, and there
was a second delay of some hours. A stop at Long Branch was therefore
out of the question.
"I told you Friday was an unlucky day," said the General.
It was eight o'clock that evening before the _Seahound_ stood off
from the Twenty-third Street wharf.
"I'll have to put you ashore in a small boat," said Druce: "you won't
mind that, I hope. The captain is so uncertain about the engines that
he doesn't want to go nearer land."
"Oh, I don't mind in the least. Good-night. I've had a lovely day."
"I'm glad you enjoyed it. We will take another trip together some time,
when I hope so many things won't happen as happened to-day."
The General saw that his carriage was waiting for him, but the waning
light did not permit him to recognise his son until he was up on dry
land once more. The look on his son's face appalled the old man.
"My God! John, what has happened?"
[Illustration: "WHAT HAS HAPPENED?"]
"Everything's happened. Where are the securities that were in the
"Oh, they're all right," said his father, a feeling of relief coming
over him. Then the thought flashed through his mind: How did John know
they were not in the safe? Sneed kept a tight rein on his affairs, and
no one but himself knew the combination that would open the safe.
"How did you know that the securities were not there?"
"Because I had the safe blown open at one o'clock to-day."
"Blown open! For Heaven's sake, why?"
"Step into the carriage, and I'll tell you on the way home. The bottom
dropped out of everything. All the Sneed stocks went down with a run.
We sent a tug after you, but that old devil had you tight. If I could
have got at the bonds, I think I could have stopped the run. The
situation might have been saved up to one o'clock, but after that, when
the Street saw we were doing nothing, all creation couldn't have
stopped it. Where are the bonds?"
"I sold them to Druce."
"What did you get? Cash?"
"I took his cheque on the Trust National Bank."
"Did you cash it? Did you cash it?" cried the young man. "And if you
did, where is the money?"
"Druce asked me as a favour not to present the cheque until to-morrow."
The young man made a gesture of despair.
"The Trust National went to smash to-day at two. We are paupers,
father; we haven't a cent left out of the wreck. That cheque business
is so evidently a fraud that--but what's the use of talking. Old Druce
has the money, and he can buy all the law he wants in New York. God!
I'd like to have a seven seconds' interview with him with a loaded
seven-shooter in my hand! We'd see how much the law would do for him
General Sneed despondently shook his head.
"It's no use, John," he said. "We're in the same business ourselves,
only this time we got the hot end of the poker. But he played it low
down on me, pretending to be friendly and all that." The two men did
not speak again until the carriage drew up at the brown stone mansion,
which earlier in the day Sneed would have called his own. Sixteen
reporters were waiting for them, but the old man succeeded in escaping
to his room, leaving John to battle with the newspaper men.
Next morning the papers were full of the news of the panic. They said
that old Druce had gone in his yacht for a trip up the New England
coast. They deduced from this fact, that, after all, Druce might not
have had a hand in the disaster; everything was always blamed on Druce.
Still it was admitted that, whoever suffered, the Druce stocks were all
right. They were quite unanimously frank in saying that the Sneeds were
wiped out, whatever that might mean. The General had refused himself to
all the reporters, while young Sneed seemed to be able to do nothing
Shortly before noon General Sneed, who had not left the house, received
a letter brought by a messenger.
He feverishly tore it open, for he recognised on the envelope the well-
known scrawl of the great speculator.
DEAR SNEED (it ran), You will see by the papers that I am off on a
cruise, but they are as wrong as they usually are when they speak of
me. I learn there was a bit of a flutter in the market while we were
away yesterday, and I am glad to say that my brokers, who are sharp
men, did me a good turn or two. I often wonder why these flurries come,
but I suppose it is to let a man pick up some sound stocks at a
reasonable rate, if he has the money by him. Perhaps they are also sent
to teach humility to those who might else become purse-proud. We are
but finite creatures, Sneed, here to-day and gone to-morrow. How
foolish a thing is pride! And that reminds me that if your two
daughters should happen to think as I do on the uncertainty of riches,
I wish you would ask them to call. I have done up those securities in a
sealed package and given the parcel to my daughter-in-law. She has no
idea what the value of it is, but thinks it a little present from me to
your girls. If, then, they should happen to call, she will hand it to
them; if not, I shall use the contents to found a college for the
purpose of teaching manners to young women whose grandfather used to
feed pigs for a living, as indeed my own grandfather did. Should the
ladies happen to like each other, I think I can put you on to a deal
next week that will make up for Friday. I like you, Sneed, but you have
no head for business. Seek my advice oftener.
The Sneed girls called on Mrs. Edward Druce.
If you grind castor sugar with an equal quantity of chlorate of potash,
the result is an innocent-looking white compound, sweet to the taste,
and sometimes beneficial in the case of a sore throat. But if you dip a
glass rod into a small quantity of sulphuric acid, and merely touch the
harmless-appearing mixture with the wet end of the rod, the dish which
contains it becomes instantly a roaring furnace of fire, vomiting forth
a fountain of burning balls, and filling the room with a dense, black,
suffocating cloud of smoke.
So strange a combination is that mystery which we term Human Nature,
that a touch of adverse circumstance may transform a quiet, peaceable,
law-abiding citizen into a malefactor whose heart is filled with a
desire for vengeance, stopping at nothing to accomplish it.
In a little narrow street off the broad Rue de Rennes, near the great
terminus of Mont-Parnasse, stood the clock-making shop of the brothers
Delore. The window was filled with cheap clocks, and depending from a
steel spring attached to the top of the door was a bell, which rang
when any one entered, for the brothers were working clockmakers,
continually busy in the room at the back of the shop, and trade in the
neighbourhood was not brisk enough to allow them to keep an assistant.
The brothers had worked amicably in this small room for twenty years,
and were reported by the denizens of that quarter of Paris to be
enormously rich. They were certainly contented enough, and had plenty
of money for their frugal wants, as well as for their occasional
exceedingly mild dissipations at the neighbouring cafe. They had always
a little money for the church, and a little money for charity, and no
one had ever heard either of them speak a harsh word to any living
soul, and least of all to each other. When the sensitively adjusted
bell at the door announced the arrival of a possible customer, Adolph
left his work and attended to the shop, while Alphonse continued his
task without interruption. The former was supposed to be the better
business man of the two, while the latter was admittedly the better
workman. They had a room over the shop, and a small kitchen over the
workroom at the back; but only one occupied the bedroom above, the
other sleeping in the shop, as it was supposed that the wares there
displayed must have formed an almost irresistible temptation to any
thief desirous of accumulating a quantity of time-pieces. The brothers
took week-about at guarding the treasures below, but in all the twenty
years no thief had yet disturbed their slumbers.
One evening, just as they were about to close the shop and adjourn
together to the cafe, the bell rang, and Adolph went forward to learn
what was wanted. He found waiting for him an unkempt individual of
appearance so disreputable, that he at once made up his mind that here
at last was the thief for whom they had waited so long in vain. The
man's wild, roving eye, that seemed to search out every corner and
cranny in the place and rest nowhere for longer than a second at a
time, added to Delore's suspicions. The unsavoury visitor was evidently
spying out the land, and Adolph felt certain he would do no business
with him at that particular hour, whatever might happen later.
The customer took from under his coat, after a furtive glance at the
door of the back room, a small paper-covered parcel, and, untying the
string somewhat hurriedly, displayed a crude piece of clockwork made of
brass. Handing it to Adolph, he said, "How much would it cost to make a
dozen like that?"
Adolph took the piece of machinery in his hand and examined it. It was
slightly concave in shape, and among the wheels was a strong spring.
Adolph wound up this spring, but so loosely was the machinery put
together that when he let go the key, the spring quickly uncoiled
itself with a whirring noise of the wheels.
"This is very bad workmanship," said Adolph.
"It is," replied the man, who, notwithstanding his poverty-stricken
appearance, spoke like a person of education. "That is why I come to
you for better workmanship."
"What is it used for?"
The man hesitated for a moment. "It is part of a clock," he said at
"I don't understand it. I never saw a clock made like this."
"It is an alarm attachment," replied the visitor, with some impatience.
"It is not necessary that you should understand it. All I ask is, can
you duplicate it and at what price?"
"But why not make the alarm machinery part of the clock? It would be
much cheaper than to make this and then attach it to a clock."
The man made a gesture of annoyance.
"Will you answer my question?" he said gruffly.
"I don't believe you want this as part of a clock. In fact, I think I
can guess why you came in here," replied Adolph, as innocent as a child
of any correct suspicion of what the man was, thinking him merely a
thief, and hoping to frighten him by this hint of his own shrewdness.
His visitor looked loweringly at him, and then with a quick eye, seemed
to measure the distance from where he stood to the pavement, evidently
"I will see what my brother says about this," said Adolph. But before
Adolph could call his brother, the man bolted and was gone in an
instant, leaving the mechanism in the hands of the bewildered
Alphonse, when he heard the story of their belated customer, was even
more convinced than his brother of the danger of the situation. The man
was undoubtedly a thief, and the bit of clockwork merely an excuse for
getting inside the fortress. The brothers, with much perturbation,
locked up the establishment, and instead of going to their usual cafe,
they betook themselves as speedily as possible to the office of the
police, where they told their suspicions and gave a description of the
supposed culprit. The officer seemed much impressed by their story.
"Have you brought with you the machine he showed you?"
"No. It is at the shop," said Adolph. "It was merely an excuse to get
inside, I am sure of that, for no clockmaker ever made it."
"Perhaps," replied the officer. "Will you go and bring it? Say nothing
of this to any one you meet, but wrap the machine in paper and bring it
as quickly and as quietly as you can. I would send a man with you, only
I do not wish to attract attention."
Before morning the man, who gave his name as Jacques Picard, was
arrested, but the authorities made little by their zeal. Adolph Delore
swore positively that Picard and his visitor were the same person, but
the prisoner had no difficulty in proving that he was in a cafe two
miles away at the time the visitor was in Delore's shop, while Adolph
had to admit that the shop was rather dark when the conversation about
the clockwork took place. Picard was ably defended, and his advocate
submitted that, even if he had been in the shop as stated by Delore,
and had bargained as alleged for the mechanism, there was nothing
criminal in that, unless the prosecution could show that he intended to
put what he bought to improper uses. As well arrest a man who entered
to buy a key for his watch. So Picard was released, although the
police, certain he was one of the men they wanted, resolved to keep a
close watch on his future movements. But the suspected man, as if to
save them unnecessary trouble, left two days later for London, and
For a week Adolph slept badly in the shop, for although he hoped the
thief had been frightened away by the proceedings taken against him,
still, whenever he fell asleep, he dreamt of burglars, and so awoke
himself many times during the long nights. When it came the turn of
Alphonse to sleep in the shop, Adolph hoped for an undisturbed night's
rest in the room, above, but the Fates were against him. Shortly after
midnight he was flung from his bed to the floor, and he felt the house
rocking as if an earthquake had passed under Paris. He got on his hands
and knees in a dazed condition, with a roar as of thunder in his ears,
mingled with the sharp crackle of breaking glass. He made his way to
the window, wondering whether he was asleep or awake, and found the
window shattered. The moonlight poured into the deserted street, and he
noticed a cloud of dust and smoke rising from the front of the shop. He
groped his way through the darkness towards the stairway and went down,
calling his brother's name; but the lower part of the stair had been
blown away, and he fell upon the debris below, lying there half-
stunned, enveloped in suffocating smoke.
When Adolph partially recovered consciousness, he became aware that two
men were helping him out over the ruins of the shattered shop. He was
still murmuring the name of his brother, and they were telling him, in
a reassuring tone, that everything was all right, although he vaguely
felt that what they said was not true. They had their arms linked in
his, and he stumbled helplessly among the wreckage, seeming to have
lost control over his limbs. He saw that the whole front of the shop
was gone, and noticed through the wide opening that a crowd stood in
the street, kept back by the police. He wondered why he had not seen
all these people when he looked out of the shattered window. When they
brought him to the ambulance, he resisted slightly, saying he wanted to
go to his brother's assistance, who was sleeping in the shop, but with
gentle force they placed him in the vehicle, and he was driven away to
For several days Adolph fancied that he was dreaming, that he would
soon awake and take up again the old pleasant, industrious life. It was
the nurse who told him he would never see his brother again, adding by
way of consolation that death had been painless and instant, that the
funeral had been one of the grandest that quarter of Paris had ever
seen, naming many high and important officials who had attended it.
Adolph turned his face to the wall and groaned. His frightful dream was
to last him his life.
When he trod the streets of Paris a week later, he was but the shadow
of his former portly self. He was gaunt and haggard, his clothes
hanging on him as if they had been made for some other man, a
fortnight's stubby beard on the face which had always heretofore been
smoothly shaven. He sat silently at the cafe, and few of his friends
recognised him at first. They heard he had received ample compensation
from the Government, and now would have money enough to suffice him all
his life, without the necessity of working for it, and they looked on
him as a fortunate man. But he sat there listlessly, receiving their
congratulations or condolences with equal apathy. Once he walked past
the shop. The front was boarded up, and glass had been put in the upper
He wandered aimlessly through the streets of Paris, some saying he was
insane, and that he was looking for his brother; others, that he was
searching for the murderer. One day he entered the police-office where
he had first made his unlucky complaint.
"Have you arrested him yet?" he asked of the officer in charge.
"Whom?" inquired the officer, not recognising his visitor.
"Picard. I am Adolph Delore."
"It was not Picard who committed the crime. He was in London at the
time, and is there still."
"Ah! He said he was in the north of Paris when he was with me in the
south. He is a liar. He blew up the shop."
"I quite believe he planned it, but the deed was done by another. It
was done by Lamoine, who left for Brussels next morning and went to
London by way of Antwerp. He is living with Picard in London at this
"If you know that, why has neither of them been taken?"
"To know is one thing; to be able to prove quite another. We cannot get
these rascals from England merely on suspicion, and they will take good
care not to set foot in France for some time to come."
"You are waiting for evidence, then?"
"We are waiting for evidence."
"How do you expect to get it?"
"We are having them watched. They are very quiet just now, but it won't
be for long. Picard is too restless. Then we may arrest some one soon
who will confess."
"Perhaps I could help. I am going to London. Will you give me Picard's
"Here is his address, but I think you had better leave the case alone.
You do not know the language, and you may merely arouse his suspicions
if you interfere. Still, if you learn anything, communicate with me."
The former frank, honest expression in Adolph's eyes had given place to
a look of cunning, that appealed to the instincts of a French police-
officer. He thought something might come of this, and his instincts did
not mislead him.
Delore with great craftiness watched the door of the house in London,
taking care that no one should suspect his purpose. He saw Picard come
out alone on several occasions, and once with another of his own
stripe, whom he took to be Lamoine.
One evening, when crossing Leicester Square, Picard was accosted by a
stranger in his own language. Looking round with a start, he saw at his
side a cringing tramp, worse than shabbily dressed.
"What did you say?" asked Picard, with a tremor in his voice.
"Could you assist a poor countryman?" whined Delore.
"I have no money."
"Perhaps you could help me to get work. I don't know the language, but
I am a good workman."
"How can I help you to work? I have no work myself."
"I would be willing to work for nothing, if I could get a place to
sleep in and something to eat."
"Why don't you steal? I would if I were hungry. What are you afraid of?
Prison? It is no worse than tramping the streets hungry; I know, for I
have tried both. What is your trade?"
"I am a watchmaker and a first-class workman, but I have pawned all my
tools. I have tramped from Lyons, but there is nothing doing in my
Picard looked at him suspiciously for a few moments.
"Why did you accost me?" he asked at last.
"I saw you were a fellow-countryman; Frenchmen have helped me from time
"Let us sit down on this bench. What is your name, and how long have
you been in England?"
"My name is Adolph Carrier, and I have been in London three months."
"So long as that? How have you lived all that time?"
"Very poorly, as you may see. I sometimes get scraps from the French
restaurants, and I sleep where I can."
"Well, I think I can do better than that for you. Come with me."
Picard took Delore to his house, letting himself in with a latchkey.
Nobody seemed to occupy the place but himself and Lamoine. He led the
way to the top story, and opened a door that communicated with a room
entirely bare of furniture. Leaving Adolph there, Picard went
downstairs again and came up shortly after with a lighted candle in his
hand, followed by Lamoine, who carried a mattress.
"This will do for you for tonight," said Picard, "and tomorrow we will
see if we can get you any work. Can you make clocks?"
"Oh yes, and good ones."
"Very well. Give me a list of the tools and materials you need and I
will get them for you."
Picard wrote in a note-book the items Adolph recited to him, Lamoine
watching their new employee closely, but saying nothing. Next day a
table and a chair were put into the room, and in the afternoon Picard
brought in the tools and some sheets of brass.
Picard and Lamoine were somewhat suspicious of their recruit at first,
but he went on industriously with his task, and made no attempt to
communicate with anybody. They soon saw that he was an expert workman,
and a quiet, innocent, half-daft, harmless creature, so he was given
other things to do, such as cleaning up their rooms and going errands
for beer and other necessities of life.
When Adolph finished his first machine, he took it down to them and
exhibited it with pardonable pride. There was a dial on it exactly like
a clock, although it had but one hand.
"Let us see it work," said Picard; "set it so that the bell will ring
in three minutes." Adolph did as requested, and stood back when the
machine began to work with a scarcely audible tick-tick. Picard pulled
out his watch, and exactly at the third minute the hammer fell on the
bell. "That is very satisfactory," said Picard; "now, can you make the
next one slightly concave, so that a man may strap it under his coat
without attracting attention? Such a shape is useful when passing the
"I can make it any shape you like, and thinner than this one if you
"Very well. Go out and get us a quart of beer, and we will drink to
your success. Here is the money."
Adolph obeyed with his usual docility, staying out, however, somewhat
longer than usual. Picard, impatient at the delay, spoke roughly to him
when he returned, and ordered him to go upstairs to his work. Adolph
departed meekly, leaving them to their beer. "See that you understand
that machine, Lamoine," said Picard. "Set it at half an hour."
Lamoine, turning the hand to the figure VI on the dial, set the works
in motion, and to the accompaniment of its quiet tick-tick they drank
"He seems to understand his business," said Lamoine.
"Yes," answered Picard. "What heady stuff this English beer is. I wish
we had some good French bock; this makes me drowsy."
Lamoine did not answer; he was nodding in his chair. Picard threw
himself down on his mattress in one corner of the room; Lamoine, when
he slipped from his chair, muttered an oath, and lay where he fell.
Twenty minutes later the door stealthily opened, and Adolph's head
cautiously reconnoitred the situation, coming into the silent apartment
inch by inch, his crafty eyes rapidly searching the room and filling
with malicious glee when he saw that everything was as he had planned.
He entered quietly and closed the door softly behind him. He had a
great coil of thin strong cord in his hand. Approaching the sleeping
men on tiptoe, he looked down on them for a moment, wondering whether
the drug had done its work sufficiently well for him to proceed. The
question was settled for him with a suddenness that nearly unnerved
him. An appalling clang of the bell, a startling sound that seemed loud
enough to wake the dead, made him spring nearly to the ceiling. He
dropped his rope and clung to the door in a panic of dread, his
palpitating heart nearly suffocating him with its wild beating, staring
with affrighted eyes at the machine which had given such an unexpected
alarm. Slowly recovering command over himself, he turned his gaze on
the sleepers: neither had moved; both were breathing as heavily as
Pulling himself together, he turned his attention first to Picard, as
the more dangerous man of the two, should an awakening come before he
was ready for it. He bound Picard's wrists tightly together; then his
ankles, his knees, and his elbows. He next did the same for Lamoine.
With great effort he got Picard in a seated position on his chair,
tying him there with coil after coil of the cord. So anxious was he to
make everything secure, that he somewhat overdid the business, making
the two seem like seated mummies swathed in cord. The chairs he
fastened immovably to the floor, then he stood back and gazed with a
sigh at the two grim seated figures, with their heads drooping
helplessly forward on their corded breasts, looking like silent
effigies of the dead.
Mopping his perspiring brow, Adolph now turned his attention to the
machine that had startled him so when he first came in. He examined
minutely its mechanism to see that everything was right. Going to the
cupboard, he took up a false bottom and lifted carefully out a number
of dynamite cartridges that the two sleepers had stolen from a French
mine. These he arranged in a battery, tying them together. He raised
the hammer of the machine, and set the hand so that the blow would fall
in sixty minutes after the machinery was set in motion. The whole
deadly combination he placed on a small table, which he shoved close in
front of the two sleeping men. This done, he sat down on a chair
patiently to await the awakening. The room was situated at the back of
the house, and was almost painfully still, not a sound from the street
penetrating to it. The candle burnt low, guttered and went out, but
Adolph sat there and did not light another. The room was still only
half in darkness, for the moon shone brightly in at the window,
reminding Adolph that it was just a month since he had looked out on a
moonlit street in Paris, while his brother lay murdered in the room
below. The hours dragged along, and Adolph sat as immovable as the two
figures before him. The square of moonlight, slowly moving, at last
illuminated the seated form of Picard, imperceptibly climbing up, as
the moon sank, until it touched his face. He threw his head first to
one side, then back, yawned, drew a deep breath, and tried to struggle.
"Lamoine," he cried "Adolph. What the devil is this? I say, here. Help!
I am betrayed."
"Hush," said Adolph, quietly. "Do not cry so loud. You will wake
Lamoine, who is beside you. I am here; wait till I light a candle, the
moonlight is waning."
"Adolph, you fiend, you are in league with the police."
"No, I am not. I will explain everything in a moment. Have patience."
Adolph lit a candle, and Picard, rolling his eyes, saw that the slowly
awakening Lamoine was bound like himself.
Lamoine, glaring at his partner and not understanding what had
"You have turned traitor, Picard; you have informed, curse you!"
"Keep quiet, you fool. Don't you see I am bound as tightly as you?"
"There has been no traitor and no informing, nor need, of any. A month
ago tonight, Picard, there was blown into eternity a good and honest
man, who never harmed you or any one. I am his brother. I am Adolph
Delore, who refused to make your infernal machine for you. I am much
changed since then; but perhaps now you recognise me?"
"I swear to God," cried Picard, "that I did not do it. I was in London
at the time. I can prove it. There is no use in handing me over to the
police, even though, perhaps, you think you can terrorise this poor
wretch into lying against me."
"Pray to the God, whose name you so lightly use, that the police you
fear may get you before I have done with you. In the police, strange as
it may sound to you, is your only hope; but they will have to come
quickly if they are to save you. Picard, you have lived, perhaps,
thirty-five years on this earth. The next hour of your life will be
longer to you than all these years."
Adolph put the percussion cap in its place and started the mechanism.
For a few moments its quiet tick-tick was the only sound heard in the
room, the two bound men staring with wide-open eyes at the dial of the
clock, while the whole horror of their position slowly broke upon them.
Tick-tick, tick-tick, tick-tick, tick-tick, tick-tick, tick-tick. Each
man's face paled, and rivulets of sweat ran down from their brows.
Suddenly Picard raised his voice in an unearthly shriek.
"I expected that," said Adolph, quietly. "I don't think anyone can
hear, but I will gag you both, so that no risks may be run." When this
was done, he said: "I have set the clockwork at sixty minutes; seven of
those are already spent. There is still time enough left for meditation
and repentance. I place the candle here so that its rays will shine
upon the dial. When you have made your own peace, pray for the souls of
any you have sent into eternity without time for preparation."
Delore left the room as softly as he had entered it, and the doomed men
tried ineffectually to cry out as they heard the key turning in the
The authorities knew that someone had perished in that explosion, but
whether it was one man or two they could not tell.
THE SHADOW OF THE GREENBACK.
Hickory Sam needed but one quality to be perfect. He should have been
an arrant coward. He was a blustering braggart, always boasting of the
men he had slain, and the odds he had contended against; filled with
stories of his own valour, but alas! he shot straight, and rarely
missed his mark, unless he was drunker than usual. It would have been
delightful to tell how this unmitigated ruffian had been "held up" by
some innocent tenderfoot from the East, and made to dance at the muzzle
of a quite new and daintily ornamented revolver, for the loud-mouthed
blowhard seemed just the man to flinch when real danger confronted him;
but, sad to say, there was nothing of the white feather about Hickory
Sam, for he feared neither man, nor gun, nor any combination of them.
He was as ready to fight a dozen as one, and once had actually "held
up" the United States army at Fort Concho, beating a masterly retreat
backwards with his face to the foe, holding a troop in check with his
two seven-shooters that seemed to point in every direction at once,
making every man in the company feel, with a shiver up his back, that
he individually was "covered," and would be the first to drop if firing
Hickory Sam appeared suddenly in Salt Lick, and speedily made good his
claim to be the bad man of the district. Some old-timers disputed Sam's
arrogant contention, but they did not live long enough to maintain
their own well-earned reputations as objectionable citizens. Thus
Hickory Sam reigned supreme in Salt Lick, and every one in the place
was willing and eager to stand treat to Sam, or to drink with him when
Sam's chief place of resort in Salt Lick was the Hades Saloon, kept by
Mike Davlin. Mike had not originally intended this to be the title of
his bar, having at first named it after a little liquor cellar he kept
in his early days in Philadelphia, called "The Shades," but some cowboy
humourist, particular about the external fitness of things, had scraped
out the letter "S," and so the sign over the door had been allowed to
remain. Mike did not grumble. He had taken a keen interest in politics
in Philadelphia, but an unexpected spasm of civic virtue having
overtaken the city some years before, Davlin had been made a victim,
and he was forced to leave suddenly for the West, where there was no
politics, and where a man handy at mixing drinks was looked upon as a
boon by the rest of the community. Mike did not grumble when even the
name "Hades" failed to satisfy the boys in their thirst for appropriate
nomenclature, and when they took to calling the place by a shorter and
terser synonym beginning with the same letter, he made no objections.
Mike was an adaptive man, who mixed drinks, but did not mix in rows. He
protected himself by not keeping a revolver, and by admitting that he
could not hit his own saloon at twenty yards distance. A residence in
the quiet city of Philadelphia is not conducive to the nimbling of the
trigger finger. When the boys in the exuberance of their spirits began
to shoot, Mike promptly ducked under his counter and waited till the
clouds of smoke rolled by. He sent in a bill for broken glass, bottles,
and the damage generally, when his guests were sober again, and his
accounts were always paid. Mike was a deservedly popular citizen in
Salt Lick, and might easily have been elected to the United States
Congress, if he had dared to go east again. But, as he himself said, he
was out of politics.
It was the pleasant custom of the cowboys at Buller's ranch to come
into Salt Lick on pay-days and close up the town. These periodical
visits did little harm to any one, and seemed to be productive of much
amusement for the boys. They rode at full gallop through the one street
of the place like a troop of cavalry, yelling at the top of their
voices and brandishing their weapons.
The first raid through Salt Lick was merely a warning, and all
peaceably inclined inhabitants took it as such, retiring forthwith to
the seclusion of their houses. On their return trip the boys winged or
lamed, with unerring aim, any one found in the street. They seldom
killed a wayfarer; if a fatality ensued it was usually the result of
accident, and much to the regret of the boys, who always apologised
handsomely to the surviving relatives, which expression of regret was
generally received in the amicable spirit with which it was tendered.
There was none of the rancour of the vendetta in these little
encounters; if a man happened to be blotted out, it was his ill luck,
that was all, and there was rarely any thought of reprisal.
This perhaps was largely due to the fact that the community was a
shifting one, and few had any near relatives about them, for, although
the victim might have friends, they seldom held him in such esteem as
to be willing to take up his quarrel when there was a bullet hole
through him. Relatives, however, are often more difficult to deal with
than are friends, in cases of sudden death, and this fact was
recognised by Hickory Sam, who, when he was compelled to shoot the
younger Holt brother in Mike's saloon, promptly went, at some personal
inconvenience, and assassinated the elder, before John Holt heard the
news. As Sam explained to Mike when he returned, he had no quarrel with
John Holt, but merely killed him in the interests of peace, for he
would have been certain to draw and probably shoot several citizens
when he heard of his brother's death, because, for some unexplained
reason, the brothers were fond of each other.
When Hickory Sam was comparatively new to Salt Lick he allowed the
Buller's ranch gang to close up the town without opposition. It was
their custom, when the capital of Coyote county had been closed up to
their satisfaction, to adjourn to Hades and there "blow in" their hard-
earned gain's on the liquor Mike furnished. They also added to the
decorations of the saloon ceiling. Several cowboys had a gift of
twirling their Winchester repeating rifles around the fore finger and
firing it as the flying muzzle momentarily pointed upwards. The man who
could put the most bullets within the smallest space in the root was
the expert of the occasion, and didn't have to pay for his drinks.
This exhibition might have made many a man quail, but it had no effect
on Hickory Sam, who leant against the bar and sneered at the show as
"Perhaps you think you can do it," cried the champion. "I bet you the
drinks you can't."
"I don't have to," said Hickory Sam, with the calm dignity of a dead
shot. "I don't have to, but I'll tell you what I can do. I can nip the
heart of a man with this here gun" showing his seven-shooter, "me a-
standing in Hades here and he a-coming out of the bank." For Salt Lick,
being a progressive town, had the Coyote County Bank some distance down
the street on the opposite side from the saloon.
"You're a liar," roared the champion, whereupon all the boys grasped
their guns and were on the look out for trouble.
Hickory Sam merely laughed, strode to the door, threw it open, and
walked out to the middle of the deserted thoroughfare.
"I'm a bad man from Way Back," he yelled at the top of his voice. "I'm
the toughest cuss in Coyote county, and no darned greasers from
Buller's can close up this town when I'm in it. You hear me! Salt
Lick's wide open, and I'm standing in the street to prove it."
It was bad enough to have the town declared open when fifteen of them
in a body had proclaimed it closed, but in addition to this to be
called "greasers" was an insult not to be borne. A cowboy despises a
Mexican almost as much as he does an Indian. With a soul-terrifying
yell the fifteen were out of the saloon and on their horses like a
cyclone. They went down the street with tornado speed, wheeling about,
some distance below the temporarily closed bank, and, charging up again
at full gallop, fired repeatedly in the direction of Hickory Sam, who
was crouching behind an empty whiskey barrel in front of the saloon
with a "gun" in either hand.
Sam made good his contention by nipping the heart of the champion when
opposite the bank, who plunged forward on his face and threw the
cavalcade into confusion. Then Sam stood up, and regardless of the
scattering shots, fired with both revolvers, killing the foremost man
of the troop and slaughtering three horses, which instantly changed the
charge into a rout. He then retired to Hades and barricaded the door.
Mike was nowhere to be seen.
But the boys knew when they had enough. They made no attack on the
saloon, but picked up their dead, and, thoroughly sobered, made their
way, much more slowly than they came, back to Buller's ranch.
When it was evident that they had gone, Mike cautiously emerged from
his place of retirement, as Sam was vigorously pounding on the bar,
threatening that if a drink were not forthcoming he would go round
behind the bar and help himself.
"I'm a law and order man," he explained to Davlin, "and I won't have no
toughs from Buller's ranch close up this town and interfere with
commerce. Every man has got to respect the Constitution of the United
States as long as my gun can bark, you bet your life!"
Mike hurriedly admitted that he was perfectly right, and asked him what
he would have, forgetting in his agitation that Sam took one thing
only, and that one thing straight.
Next day old Buller himself came in from his ranch to see if anything
could be done about this latest affray. It was bad enough to lose two
of his best herdsmen in a foolish contest of this kind, but to have
three trained horses killed as well, was disgusting. Buller had been
one of the boys himself in his young days, but now, having grown
wealthy in the cattle business, he was anxious to see civilisation move
westward with strides a little more rapid than it was taking. He made
the mistake of appealing to the Sheriff, as if that worthy man could be
expected, for the small salary he received, to attempt the arrest of so
dead a shot as Hickory Sam.
Besides, as the Sheriff quite correctly pointed out, the boys
themselves had been the aggressors in the first place, and if fifteen
of them could not take care of one man behind an empty whiskey barrel,
they had better remain peaceably at home in the future, and do their
pistol practice in the quiet, innocuous retirement of a shooting
gallery. They surely could not expect the strong arm of the law, in the
person of a peaceably-minded Sheriff, to reach out and pull their
chestnuts from the fire when several of them had already burned their
fingers, and when the chestnuts shot and drank as straight as Hickory
Buller, finding the executive portion of the law slow and reluctant to
move, sought advice from his own lawyer, the one disciple of Coke-upon-
Littleton in the place. The lawyer doubted if there was any legal
remedy in the then condition of society around Salt Lick. The safest
plan perhaps would be--mind, he did not advise, but merely suggested--
to surround Hickory Sam and wipe him off the face of the earth. This
might not be strictly according to law, but it would be effective, if
carried out without an error.
The particulars of Buller's interview with the Sheriff spread rapidly
in Salt Lick, and caused great indignation among the residents thereof,
especially those who frequented Hades. It was a reproach to the place
that the law should be invoked, all on account of a trivial incident
like that of the day before. Sam, who had been celebrating his victory
at Mike's, heard the news with bitter, if somewhat silent resentment,
for he had advanced so far in his cups that he was all but speechless.
Being a magnanimous man, he would have been quite content to let
bygones be bygones, but this unjustifiable action of Buller's required
prompt and effectual chastisement. He would send the wealthy ranchman
to keep company with his slaughtered herdsmen.
Thus it was that when Buller mounted his horse after his futile visit
to the lawyer, he found Hickory Sam holding the street with his guns.
The fusillade that followed was without result, which disappointing
termination is accounted for by the fact that Sam was exceedingly drunk
at the time, and the ranchman was out of practice. Seldom had Salt Lick
seen so much powder burnt with no damage except to the window-glass in
the vicinity. Buller went back to the lawyer's office, and afterwards
had an interview with the bank manager. Then he got quietly out of town
unmolested, for Sam, weeping on Mike's shoulder over the inaccuracy of
his aim, gradually sank to sleep in a corner of the saloon.
Next morning, when Sam woke to temporary sobriety, he sent word to the
ranch that he would shoot old Buller on sight, and, at the same time,
he apologised for the previous eccentricities of his fire, promising
that such an annoying exhibition should not occur again. He signed
himself "The Terror of Salt Lick, and the Champion of Law and Order."
It was rumoured that old Buller, when he returned to the lawyer's
office, had made his will, and that the bank manager had witnessed it.
This supposed action of Buller was taken as a most delicate compliment
to Hickory Sam's determination and marksmanship, and he was justly
proud of the work he had thrown into the lawyer's hands.
A week passed before old Buller came to Salt Lick, but when he came.
Hickory Sam was waiting for him, and this time the desperado was not
drunk, that is to say, he had not had more than half a dozen glasses of
forty rod that morning.
When the rumour came to Hades that old Buller was approaching the town
on horseback and alone, Sam at once bet the drinks that he would fire
but one shot, and so, in a measure, atone for the ineffectual racket he
had made on the occasion of the previous encounter. The crowd stood by,
in safe places, to see the result of the duel.
Sam, a cocked revolver in his right hand, stood squarely in the centre
of the street, with the sturdy bearing of one who has his quarrel just,
and who besides can pierce the ace spot on a card ten yards further
away than any other man in the county.
[Illustration: SAM LOOKED SAVAGELY AROUND HIM]
Old Buller came riding up the street as calmly as if he were on his own
ranch. When almost within range of Sam's pistol, the old man raised
both hands above his head, letting the reins fall on the horse's neck.
In this extraordinary attitude he rode forward, to the amazement of the
crowd and the evident embarrassment of Sam.
"I am not armed," the old man shouted. "I have come to talk this thing
over and settle it."
"It's too late for talk," yelled Sam, infuriated at the prospect of
missing his victim after all; "pull your gun, old man, and shoot."
"I haven't got a gun on me," said Buller, still advancing, and still
holding up his hands.
"That trick's played out," shouted Sam, flinging up his right hand and
The old man, with hands above his head, leant slowly forward like a
falling tower, then pitched head foremost from his horse to the ground,
where he lay without a struggle, face down and arms spread out.
Great as was the fear of the desperado, an involuntary cry of horror
went up from the crowd. Killing is all right and proper in its way, but
the shooting of an unarmed man who voluntarily held up his hands and
kept them up, was murder, even on the plains.
Sam looked savagely round him, glaring at the crowd that shrank away
from him, the smoking pistol hanging muzzle downward from his hand.
"It's all a trick. He had a shooting-iron in his boot. I see the butt
of it sticking out. That's why I fired."
"I'm not saying nothing," said Mike, as the fierce glance of Hickory
rested on him, "'tain't any affair of mine."
"Yes, it is," cried Hickory.
"Why, I didn't have nothin' to do with it," protested the saloon
"No. But you've got somethin' to do with it now. What did we elect you
coroner fur, I'd like to know? You've got to hustle around and panel
your jury an' bring in a verdict of accidental death or something of
that sort. Bring any sort or kind of verdict that'll save trouble in
future. I believe in law and order, I do, an' I like to see things done
"But we didn't have no jury for them cowboys," said Mike.
"Well, cowboys is different. It didn't so much matter about them.
Still, it oughter been done, even with cowboys, if we were more'n half
civilised. Nothin' like havin' things down on the record straight and
shipshape. Now some o' you fellows help me in with the body, and
Mike'll panel his jury in three shakes."
There is nothing like an energetic public-spirited man for reducing
chaos to order. Things began to assume their normal attitude, and the
crowd began to look to Sam for instruction. He seemed to understand the
etiquette of these occasions, and those present felt that they were
ignorant and inexperienced compared with him.
The body was laid out on a bench in the room at the back of the saloon,
while the jury and the spectators were accommodated with such seats as
the place afforded, Hickory Sam himself taking an elevated position on
the top of a barrel, where he could, as it were, preside over the
arrangements. It was vaguely felt by those present that Sam bore no
malice towards the deceased, and this was put down rather to his
"I think," said the coroner, looking hesitatingly up at Sam, with an
expression which showed he was quite prepared to withdraw his proposal
if it should prove inappropriate, "I think we might have the lawyer
over here. He knows how these things should be done, and he's the only
man in Salt Lick that's got a Bible to swear the jury on. I think they
ought to be sworn."
"That's a good idea," concurred Sam. "One of you run across for him,
and tell him to bring the book. Nothing like havin' these things
regular and proper and accordin' to law."
The lawyer had heard of the catastrophe, and he came promptly over to
the saloon, bringing the book with him and some papers in his hand.
There was now no doubt about Sam's knowledge of the proper thing to do,
when it was found that the lawyer quite agreed with him that an
inquest, under the circumstances, was justifiable and according to
precedent. The jury found that the late Mr. Buller had "died through
misadventure," which phrase, sarcastically suggested by the lawyer when
he found that the verdict was going to be "accidental death," pleased
the jury, who at once adopted it.
When the proceedings were so pleasantly terminated by a verdict
acceptable to all parties, the lawyer cleared his throat and said that
his late client, having perhaps a premonition of his fate, had recently
made his will, and he had desired the lawyer to make the will public as
soon as possible after his death. As the occasion seemed in every way
suitable, the lawyer proposed, with the permission of the coroner, to
read that portion which Mr. Buller hoped would receive the widest
Mike glanced with indecision at the lawyer and at Sam sitting high
above the crowd on the barrel.
"Certainly," said Hickory. "We'd all like to hear the will, although I
suppose it's none of our business."
The lawyer made no comment on this remark, but bowing to the
assemblage, unfolded a paper and read it.
Mr. Buller left all his property to his nephew in the East with the
exception of fifty thousand dollars in greenbacks, then deposited in
the Coyote County Bank at Salt Lick. The testator had reason to suspect
that a desperado named Hickory Sam (real name or designation unknown)
had designs on the testator's life. In case these designs were
successful, the whole of this money was to go to the person or persons
who succeeded in removing this scoundrel from the face of the earth. In
case the Sheriff arrested the said Hickory Sam and he was tried and
executed, the money was to be divided between the Sheriff and those who
assisted in the capture. If any man on his own responsibility shot and
killed the said Hickory Sam, the fifty thousand dollars became his sole
property, and would be handed over to him by the bank manager, in whom
Mr. Buller expressed every confidence, as soon as the slayer of Hickory
Sam proved the deed to the satisfaction of the manager. In every case
the bank manager had full control of the disposal of the fund, and
could pay it in bulk, or divide it among those who had succeeded in
eliminating from a contentious world one of its most contentious
The amazed silence which followed the reading of this document was
broken by a loud jeering and defiant laugh from the man on the barrel.
He laughed long, but no one joined him, and, as he noticed this, his
hilarity died down, being in a measure forced and mechanical. The
lawyer methodically folded up his papers. As some of the jury glanced
down at the face of the dead man who had originated this financial
scheme of post mortem vengeance, they almost fancied they saw a
malicious leer about the half-open eyes and lips. An awed whisper ran
round the assemblage. Each man said to the other under his breath:
"Fif--ty--thous--and--dollars," as if the dwelling on each syllable
made the total seem larger. The same thought was in every man's mind; a
clean, cool little fortune merely for the crooking of a forefinger and
the correct levelling of a pistol barrel.
The lawyer had silently taken his departure. Sam, soberer than he had
been for many days, slid down from the barrel, and, with his hand on
the butt of his gun, sidled, his back against the wall, towards the
door. No one raised a finger to stop him; all sat there watching him as
if they were hypnotised. He was no longer a man in their eyes, but the
embodiment of a sum to be earned in a moment, for which thousands
worked hard all their lives, often in vain, to accumulate.
Sam's brain on a problem was not so quick as his finger on a trigger,
but it began to filter slowly into his mind that he was now face to
face with a danger against which his pistol was powerless. Heretofore,
roughly speaking, nearly everybody had been his friend; now the hand of
the world was against him, with a most powerful motive for being
against him; a motive which he himself could understand. For a mere
fraction of fifty thousand dollars he would kill anybody, so long as
the deed could be done with reasonable safety to himself. Why then
should any man stay his hand against him with such a reward hanging
over his head? As Sam retreated backwards from among his former friends
they saw in his eyes what they had never seen there before, something
that was not exactly fear, but a look of furtive suspicion against the
whole human race.
Out in the open air once again Sam breathed more freely. He must get
away from Salt Lick, and that quickly. Once on the prairie he could
make up his mind what the next move was to be. He kept his revolver in
his hand, not daring to put it into its holster. Every sound made him
jump, and he was afraid to stand in the open, yet he could not remain
constantly with his back to the wall. Poor Buller's horse, fully
accoutred, cropped the grass by the side of the road. To be a horse-
thief was, of course, worse than to be a murderer, but there was no
help for it; without the horse escape was impossible. He secured the
animal with but little trouble and sprang upon its back.
As he mounted, a shot rang out from the saloon. Sam whirled around in
the saddle, but no one was to be seen; nothing but a thin film of
pistol smoke melting in the air above the open door. The rider fired
twice into the empty doorway, then, with a threat, turned towards the
open country and galloped away, and Salt Lick was far behind him when
night fell. He tethered his horse and threw himself down on the grass,
but dared not sleep. For all he knew, his pursuers might be within a
few rods of where he lay, for he was certain they would be on his trail
as soon as they knew he had left Salt Lick. The prize was too great for
no effort to be made to secure it.
There is an enemy before whom the strongest and bravest man must
succumb; that enemy is sleeplessness. When daylight found the
desperado, he had not closed an eye all night. His nerve was gone, and,
perhaps for the first time in his life, he felt a thrill of fear. The
emptiness of the prairie, which should have encouraged him, struck a
chill of loneliness into him, and he longed for the sight of a man,
even though he might have to fight him when he approached. He must have
a comrade, he said to himself, if he could find any human being in
straits as terrible as his own, some one who would keep watch and watch
with him through the night; but the comrade must either be ignorant of
the weight of money that hung over the desperado's head, or there must
be a price on his own. An innocent man would not see the use of keeping
such strict watch; a guilty man, on learning the circumstances of the
case, would sell Sam's life to purchase his own freedom. Fifty thousand
dollars, in the desperado's mind, would do anything, and yet he
himself, of all the sixty million people in the land, was the only one
who could not earn it! A comrade, then, innocent or guilty, was
impossible, and yet was absolutely necessary if the wanderer was to
The horse was in distress through lack of water, and Sam himself was
both hungry and thirsty. His next halting-place must be near a stream,
yet perhaps his safety during the first night was due to the fact that
his pursuers would naturally have looked for him near some watercourse,
and not on the open prairie.
Ten days later, Mike Davlin was awakened at three in the morning, to
find standing by his bed a gaunt, haggard living skeleton, holding a
candle in one hand, and pointing a cocked revolver at Mike's head with
"Get up," said the apparition hoarsely, "and get me something to eat
and drink. Drink first, and be quick about it. Make no noise. Is there
anybody else in the house?"
"No," said Mike, shivering. "You wait here, Sam, and I'll bring you
something. I thought you were among the Indians, or in Mexico, or in
the Bad Lands long ago."