Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Steven desJardins and Distributed Proofreaders
[Illustration: With her eye for detail Marie observed that the young
officer, instead of imparting information, received it.]
SOMEWHERE IN FRANCE
By RICHARD HARDING DAVIS
TO HOPE DAVIS
"SOMEWHERE IN FRANCE"
BILLY AND THE BIG STICK
THE BOY SCOUT
"SOMEWHERE IN FRANCE"
Marie Gessler, known as Marie Chaumontel, Jeanne d'Avrechy, the Countess
d'Aurillac, was German. Her father, who served through the
Franco-Prussian War, was a German spy. It was from her mother she
learned to speak French sufficiently well to satisfy even an Academician
and, among Parisians, to pass as one. Both her parents were dead. Before
they departed, knowing they could leave their daughter nothing save
their debts, they had had her trained as a nurse. But when they were
gone, Marie in the Berlin hospitals played politics, intrigued,
indiscriminately misused the appealing, violet eyes. There was a
scandal; several scandals. At the age of twenty-five she was dismissed
from the Municipal Hospital, and as now--save for the violet eyes--she
was without resources, as a _compagnon de voyage_ with a German doctor
she travelled to Monte Carlo. There she abandoned the doctor for Henri
Ravignac, a captain in the French Aviation Corps, who, when his leave
ended, escorted her to Paris.
The duties of Captain Ravignac kept him in barracks near the aviation
field, but Marie he established in his apartments on the Boulevard
Haussmann. One day he brought from the barracks a roll of blue-prints,
and as he was locking them in a drawer, said: "The Germans would pay
through the nose for those!" The remark was indiscreet, but then Marie
had told him she was French, and any one would have believed her.
The next morning the same spirit of adventure that had exiled her from
the Berlin hospitals carried her with the blue-prints to the German
embassy. There, greatly shocked, they first wrote down her name and
address, and then, indignant at her proposition, ordered her out. But
the day following a strange young German who was not at all indignant,
but, on the contrary, quite charming, called upon Marie. For the
blue-prints he offered her a very large sum, and that same hour with
them and Marie departed for Berlin. Marie did not need the money. Nor
did the argument that she was serving her country greatly impress her.
It was rather that she loved intrigue. And so she became a spy.
Henri Ravignac, the man she had robbed of the blue-prints, was tried by
court martial. The charge was treason, but Charles Ravignac, his
younger brother, promised to prove that the guilty one was the girl, and
to that end obtained leave of absence and spent much time and money. At
the trial he was able to show the record of Marie in Berlin and Monte
Carlo; that she was the daughter of a German secret agent; that on the
afternoon the prints disappeared Marie, with an agent of the German
embassy, had left Paris for Berlin. In consequence of this the charge of
selling military secrets was altered to one of "gross neglect," and
Henri Ravignac was sentenced to two years in the military prison at
Tours. But he was of an ancient and noble family, and when they came to
take him from his cell in the Cherche-Midi, he was dead. Charles, his
brother, disappeared. It was said he also had killed himself; that he
had been appointed a military attache in South America; that to revenge
his brother he had entered the secret service; but whatever became of
him no one knew. All that was certain was that, thanks to the act of
Marie Gessler, on the rolls of the French army the ancient and noble
name of Ravignac no longer appeared.
In her chosen profession Marie Gessler found nothing discreditable. Of
herself her opinion was not high, and her opinion of men was lower. For
her smiles she had watched several sacrifice honor, duty, loyalty; and
she held them and their kind in contempt. To lie, to cajole, to rob men
of secrets they thought important, and of secrets the importance of
which they did not even guess, was to her merely an intricate and
She played it very well. So well that in the service her advance was
rapid. On important missions she was sent to Russia, through the
Balkans; even to the United States. There, with credentials as an army
nurse, she inspected our military hospitals and unobtrusively asked many
When she begged to be allowed to work in her beloved Paris, "they" told
her when war came "they" intended to plant her inside that city, and
that, until then, the less Paris knew of her the better.
But just before the great war broke, to report on which way Italy might
jump, she was sent to Rome, and it was not until September she was
recalled. The telegram informed her that her Aunt Elizabeth was ill, and
that at once she must return to Berlin. This, she learned from the code
book wrapped under the cover of her thermos bottle, meant that she was
to report to the general commanding the German forces at Soissons.
From Italy she passed through Switzerland, and, after leaving Basle, on
military trains was rushed north to Luxemburg, and then west to Laon.
She was accompanied by her companion, Bertha, an elderly and
respectable, even distinguished-looking female. In the secret service
her number was 528. Their passes from the war office described them as
nurses of the German Red Cross. Only the Intelligence Department knew
their real mission. With her also, as her chauffeur, was a young Italian
soldier of fortune, Paul Anfossi. He had served in the Belgian Congo, in
the French Foreign Legion in Algiers, and spoke all the European
languages. In Rome, where as a wireless operator he was serving a
commercial company, in selling Marie copies of messages he had
memorized, Marie had found him useful, and when war came she obtained
for him, from the Wilhelmstrasse, the number 292. From Laon, in one of
the automobiles of the General Staff, the three spies were driven first
to Soissons, and then along the road to Meaux and Paris, to the village
of Neufchelles. They arrived at midnight, and in a chateau of one of the
champagne princes, found the colonel commanding the Intelligence
Bureau. He accepted their credentials, destroyed them, and replaced them
with a _laisser-passer_ signed by the mayor of Laon. That dignitary, the
colonel explained, to citizens of Laon fleeing to Paris and the coast
had issued many passes. But as now between Laon and Paris there were
three German armies, the refugees had been turned back and their passes
"From among them," said the officer, "we have selected one for you. It
is issued to the wife of Count d'Aurillac, a captain of reserves, and
her aunt, Madame Benet. It asks for those ladies and their chauffeur,
Briand, a safe-conduct through the French military lines. If it gets you
into Paris you will destroy it and assume another name. The Count
d'Aurillac is now with his regiment in that city. If he learned of the
presence there of his wife, he would seek her, and that would not be
good for you. So, if you reach Paris, you will become a Belgian refugee.
You are highborn and rich. Your chateau has been destroyed. But you have
money. You will give liberally to the Red Cross. You will volunteer to
nurse in the hospitals. With your sad story of ill treatment by us, with
your high birth, and your knowledge of nursing, which you acquired, of
course, only as an amateur, you should not find it difficult to join
the Ladies of France, or the American Ambulance. What you learn from the
wounded English and French officers and the French doctors you will send
us through the usual channels."
"When do I start?" asked the woman.
"For a few days," explained the officer, "you remain in this chateau.
You will keep us informed of what is going forward after we withdraw."
"Withdraw?" It was more of an exclamation than a question. Marie was too
well trained to ask questions.
"We are taking up a new position," said the officer, "on the Aisne."
The woman, incredulous, stared.
"And we do not enter Paris?"
"_You_ do," returned the officer. "That is all that concerns you. We
will join you later--in the spring. Meanwhile, for the winter we
intrench ourselves along the Aisne. In a chimney of this chateau we have
set up a wireless outfit. We are leaving it intact. The chauffeur
Briand--who, you must explain to the French, you brought with you from
Laon, and who has been long in your service--will transmit whatever you
discover. We wish especially to know of any movement toward our left. If
they attack in front from Soissons, we are prepared; but of any attempt
to cross the Oise and take us in flank, you must warn us."
The officer rose and hung upon himself his field-glasses, map-cases, and
"We leave you now," he said. "When the French arrive you will tell them
your reason for halting at this chateau was that the owner, Monsieur
Iverney, and his family are friends of your husband. You found us here,
and we detained you. And so long as you can use the wireless, make
excuses to remain. If they offer to send you on to Paris, tell them your
aunt is too ill to travel."
"But they will find the wireless," said the woman. "They are sure to use
the towers for observation, and they will find it."
"In that case," said the officer, "you will suggest to them that we fled
in such haste we had no time to dismantle it. Of course, you had no
knowledge that it existed, or, as a loyal French woman, you would have
at once told them." To emphasize his next words the officer pointed at
her: "Under no circumstances," he continued, "must you be suspected. If
they should take Briand in the act, should they have even the least
doubt concerning him, you must repudiate him entirely. If necessary, to
keep your own skirts clear, it would be your duty yourself to denounce
him as a spy."
"Your first orders," said the woman, "were to tell them Briand had been
long in my service; that I brought him from my home in Laon."
"He might be in your service for years," returned the colonel, "and you
not know he was a German agent."
"If to save myself I inform upon him," said Marie, "of course you know
you will lose him."
The officer shrugged his shoulders. "A wireless operator," he retorted,
"we can replace. But for you, and for the service you are to render in
Paris, we have no substitute. _You_ must not be found out. You are
The spy inclined her head. "I thank you," she said.
The officer sputtered indignantly.
"It is not a compliment," he exclaimed; "it is an order. You must not be
Withdrawn some two hundred yards from the Paris road, the chateau stood
upon a wooded hill. Except directly in front, trees of great height
surrounded it. The tips of their branches brushed the windows;
interlacing, they continued until they overhung the wall of the estate.
Where it ran with the road the wall gave way to a lofty gate and iron
fence, through which those passing could see a stretch of noble turf, as
wide as a polo-field, borders of flowers disappearing under the shadows
of the trees; and the chateau itself, with its terrace, its many
windows, its high-pitched, sloping roof, broken by towers and turrets.
Through the remainder of the night there came from the road to those in
the chateau the roar and rumbling of the army in retreat. It moved
without panic, disorder, or haste, but unceasingly. Not for an instant
was there a breathing-spell. And when the sun rose, the three spies--the
two women and the chauffeur--who in the great chateau were now alone,
could see as well as hear the gray column of steel rolling past below
The spies knew that the gray column had reached Claye, had stood within
fifteen miles of Paris, and then upon Paris had turned its back. They
knew also that the reverberations from the direction of Meaux, that each
moment grew more loud and savage, were the French "seventy-fives"
whipping the gray column forward. Of what they felt the Germans did not
speak. In silence they looked at each other, and in the eyes of Marie
was bitterness and resolve.
Toward noon Marie met Anfossi in the great drawing-room that stretched
the length of the terrace and from the windows of which, through the
park gates, they could see the Paris road.
"This, that is passing now," said Marie, "is the last of our rear-guard.
Go to your tower," she ordered, "and send word that except for
stragglers and the wounded our column has just passed through
Neufchelles, and that any moment we expect the French." She raised her
hand impressively. "From now," she warned, "we speak French, we think
French, we _are_ French!"
Anfossi, or Briand, as now he called himself, addressed her in that
language. His tone was bitter. "Pardon my lese-majesty," he said, "but
this chief of your Intelligence Department is a _dummer Mensch_. He is
throwing away a valuable life."
Marie exclaimed in dismay. She placed her hand upon his arm, and the
violet eyes filled with concern.
"Not yours!" she protested.
"Absolutely!" returned the Italian. "I can send nothing by this knapsack
wireless that they will not learn from others; from airmen, Uhlans, the
peasants in the fields. And certainly I will be caught. Dead I am dead,
but alive and in Paris the opportunities are unending. From the French
Legion Etranger I have my honorable discharge. I am an expert wireless
operator and in their Signal Corps I can easily find a place. Imagine
me, then, on the Eiffel Tower. From the air I snatch news from all of
France, from the Channel, the North Sea. You and I could work together,
as in Rome. But here, between the lines, with a pass from a village
_sous prefet_, it is ridiculous. I am not afraid to die. But to die
because some one else is stupid, that is hard."
Marie clasped his hand in both of hers.
"You must not speak of death," she cried; "you know I must carry out my
orders, that I must force you to take this risk. And you know that
thought of harm to you tortures me!"
Quickly the young man disengaged his hand. The woman exclaimed with
"Why do you doubt me?" she cried.
Briand protested vehemently.
"I do not doubt you."
"My affection, then?" In a whisper that carried with it the feeling of a
caress Marie added softly: "My love?"
The young man protested miserably. "You make it very hard,
mademoiselle," he cried. "You are my superior officer, I am your
servant. Who am I that I should share with others--"
The woman interrupted eagerly.
"Ah, you are jealous!" she cried. "Is that why you are so cruel? But
when I _tell_ you I love you, and only you, can you not _feel_ it is the
The young man frowned unhappily.
"My duty, mademoiselle!" he stammered.
With an exclamation of anger Marie left him. As the door slammed behind
her, the young man drew a deep breath. On his face was the expression of
In the hall Marie met her elderly companion, Bertha, now her aunt,
"I heard you quarrelling," Bertha protested. "It is most indiscreet. It
is not in the part of the Countess d'Aurillac that she makes love to her
Marie laughed noiselessly and drew her farther down the hall. "He is
imbecile!" she exclaimed. "He will kill me with his solemn face and his
conceit. I make love to him--yes--that he may work the more willingly.
But he will have none of it. He is jealous of the others."
Madame Benet frowned.
"He resents the others," she corrected. "I do not blame him. He is a
"And the others," demanded Marie; "were they not of the most noble
families of Rome?"
"I am old and I am ugly," said Bertha, "but to me Anfossi is always as
considerate as he is to you who are so beautiful."
"An Italian gentleman," returned Marie, "does not serve in Belgian Congo
unless it is the choice of that or the marble quarries."
"I do not know what his past may be," sighed Madame Benet, "nor do I
ask. He is only a number, as you and I are only numbers. And I beg you
to let us work in harmony. At such a time your love-affairs threaten our
safety. You must wait."
Marie laughed insolently. "With the Du Barry," she protested, "I can
boast that I wait for no man."
"No," replied the older woman; "you pursue him!"
Marie would have answered sharply, but on the instant her interest was
diverted. For one week, by day and night, she had lived in a world
peopled only by German soldiers. Beside her in the railroad carriage, on
the station platforms, at the windows of the trains that passed the one
in which she rode, at the grade crossings, on the bridges, in the roads
that paralleled the tracks, choking the streets of the villages and
spread over the fields of grain, she had seen only the gray-green
uniforms. Even her professional eye no longer distinguished regiment
from regiment, dragoon from grenadier, Uhlan from Hussar or Landsturm.
Stripes, insignia, numerals, badges of rank, had lost their meaning.
Those who wore them no longer were individuals. They were not even
human. During the three last days the automobile, like a motor-boat
fighting the tide, had crept through a gray-green river of men, stained,
as though from the banks, by mud and yellow clay. And for hours, while
the car was blocked, and in fury the engine raced and purred, the
gray-green river had rolled past her, slowly but as inevitably as lava
down the slope of a volcano, bearing on its surface faces with staring
eyes, thousands and thousands of eyes, some fierce and bloodshot, others
filled with weariness, homesickness, pain. At night she still saw them:
the white faces under the sweat and dust, the eyes dumb, inarticulate,
asking the answer. She had been suffocated by German soldiers, by the
mass of them, engulfed and smothered; she had stifled in a land
inhabited only by gray-green ghosts.
And suddenly, as though a miracle had been wrought, she saw upon the
lawn, riding toward her, a man in scarlet, blue, and silver. One man
Approaching with confidence, but alert; his reins fallen, his hands
nursing his carbine, his eyes searched the shadows of the trees, the
empty windows, even the sun-swept sky. His was the new face at the door,
the new step on the floor. And the spy knew had she beheld an army corps
it would have been no more significant, no more menacing, than the
solitary _chasseur a cheval_ scouting in advance of the enemy.
"We are saved!" exclaimed Marie, with irony. "Go quickly," she
commanded, "to the bedroom on the second floor that opens upon the
staircase, so that you can see all who pass. You are too ill to travel.
They must find you in bed."
"And you?" said Bertha.
"I," cried Marie rapturously, "hasten to welcome our preserver!"
The preserver was a peasant lad. Under the white dust his cheeks were
burned a brown-red, his eyes, honest and blue, through much staring at
the skies and at horizon lines, were puckered and encircled with tiny
wrinkles. Responsibility had made him older than his years, and in
speech brief. With the beautiful lady who with tears of joy ran to greet
him, and who in an ecstasy of happiness pressed her cheek against the
nose of his horse, he was unimpressed. He returned to her her papers
and gravely echoed her answers to his questions. "This chateau," he
repeated, "was occupied by their General Staff; they have left no
wounded here; you saw the last of them pass a half-hour since." He
gathered up his reins.
Marie shrieked in alarm. "You will not leave us?" she cried.
For the first time the young man permitted himself to smile. "Others
arrive soon," he said.
He touched his shako, wheeled his horse in the direction from which he
had come, and a minute later Marie heard the hoofs echoing through the
When they came, the others were more sympathetic. Even in times of war a
beautiful woman is still a beautiful woman. And the staff officers who
moved into the quarters so lately occupied by the enemy found in the
presence of the Countess d'Aurillac nothing to distress them. In the
absence of her dear friend, Madame Iverney, the chatelaine of the
chateau, she acted as their hostess. Her chauffeur showed the company
cooks the way to the kitchen, the larder, and the charcoal-box. She,
herself, in the hands of General Andre placed the keys of the famous
wine-cellar, and to the surgeon, that the wounded might be freshly
bandaged, intrusted those of the linen-closet. After the indignities she
had suffered while "detained" by _les Boches_, her delight and relief at
again finding herself under the protection of her own people would have
touched a heart of stone. And the hearts of the staff were not of stone.
It was with regret they gave the countess permission to continue on her
way. At this she exclaimed with gratitude. She assured them, were her
aunt able to travel, she would immediately depart.
"In Paris she will be more comfortable than here," said the kind
surgeon. He was a reservist, and in times of peace a fashionable
physician and as much at his ease in a boudoir as in a field hospital.
"Perhaps if I saw Madame Benet?"
At the suggestion the countess was overjoyed. But they found Madame
Benet in a state of complete collapse. The conduct of the Germans had
brought about a nervous breakdown.
"Though the bridges are destroyed at Meaux," urged the surgeon, "even
with a detour, you can be in Paris in four hours. I think it is worth
But the mere thought of the journey threw Madame Benet into hysterics.
She asked only to rest, she begged for an opiate to make her sleep. She
begged also that they would leave the door open, so that when she
dreamed she was still in the hands of the Germans, and woke in terror,
the sound of the dear French voices and the sight of the beloved French
uniforms might reassure her. She played her part well. Concerning her
Marie felt not the least anxiety. But toward Briand, the chauffeur, the
new arrivals were less easily satisfied.
The general sent his adjutant for the countess. When the adjutant had
closed the door General Andre began abruptly:
"The chauffeur Briand," he asked, "you know him; you can vouch for him?"
"But, certainly!" protested Marie. "He is an Italian."
As though with sudden enlightenment, Marie laughed. It was as if now in
the suspicion of the officer she saw a certain reasonableness. "Briand
was so long in the Foreign Legion in Algiers," she explained, "where my
husband found him, that we have come to think of him as French. As much
French as ourselves, I assure you."
The general and his adjutant were regarding each other questioningly.
"Perhaps I should tell the countess," began the general, "that we have
The signal from the adjutant was so slight, so swift, that Marie barely
The lips of the general shut together like the leaves of a book. To show
the interview was at an end, he reached for a pen.
"I thank you," he said.
"Of course," prompted the adjutant, "Madame d'Aurillac understands the
man must not know we inquired concerning him."
General Andre frowned at Marie.
"Certainly not!" he commanded. "The honest fellow must not know that
even for a moment he was doubted."
Marie raised the violet eyes reprovingly.
"I trust," she said with reproach, "I too well understand the feelings
of a French soldier to let him know his loyalty is questioned."
With a murmur of appreciation the officers bowed and with a gesture of
gracious pardon Marie left them.
Outside in the hall, with none but orderlies to observe, like a cloak
the graciousness fell from her. She was drawn two ways. In her work
Anfossi was valuable. But Anfossi suspected was less than of no value;
he became a menace, a death-warrant.
General Andre had said, "We have learned--" and the adjutant had halted
him. What had he learned? To know that, Marie would have given much.
Still, one important fact comforted her. Anfossi alone was suspected.
Had there been concerning herself the slightest doubt, they certainly
would not have allowed her to guess her companion was under
surveillance; they would not have asked one who was herself suspected to
vouch for the innocence of a fellow conspirator. Marie found the course
to follow difficult. With Anfossi under suspicion his usefulness was for
the moment at an end; and to accept the chance offered her to continue
on to Paris seemed most wise. On the other hand, if, concerning Anfossi,
she had succeeded in allaying their doubts, the results most to be
desired could be attained only by remaining where they were.
Their position inside the lines was of the greatest strategic value. The
rooms of the servants were under the roof, and that Briand should sleep
in one of them was natural. That to reach or leave his room he should
constantly be ascending or descending the stairs also was natural. The
field-wireless outfit, or, as he had disdainfully described it, the
"knapsack" wireless, was situated not in the bedroom he had selected for
himself, but in one adjoining. At other times this was occupied by the
maid of Madame Iverney. To summon her maid Madame Iverney, from her
apartment on the second floor, had but to press a button. And it was in
the apartment of Madame Iverney, and on the bed of that lady, that
Madame Benet now reclined. When through the open door she saw an officer
or soldier mount the stairs, she pressed the button that rang a bell in
the room of the maid. In this way, long before whoever was ascending the
stairs could reach the top floor, warning of his approach came to
Anfossi. It gave him time to replace the dust-board over the fireplace
in which the wireless was concealed and to escape into his own bedroom.
The arrangement was ideal. And already information picked up in the
halls below by Marie had been conveyed to Anfossi to relay in a French
cipher to the German General Staff at Rheims.
Marie made an alert and charming hostess. To all who saw her it was
evident that her mind was intent only upon the comfort of her guests.
Throughout the day many came and went, but each she made welcome; to
each as he departed she called "_bonne chance_." Efficient, tireless,
tactful, she was everywhere: in the dining-room, in the kitchen, in the
bedrooms, for the wounded finding mattresses to spread in the gorgeous
salons of the champagne prince; for the soldier-chauffeurs carrying
wine into the courtyard, where the automobiles panted and growled, and
the arriving and departing shrieked for right of way. At all times an
alluring person, now the one woman in a tumult of men, her smart frock
covered by an apron, her head and arms bare, undismayed by the sight of
the wounded or by the distant rumble of the guns, the Countess
d'Aurillac was an inspiring and beautiful picture. The eyes of the
officers, young and old, informed her of that fact, one of which already
she was well aware. By the morning of the next day she was accepted as
the owner of the chateau. And though continually she reminded the staff
she was present only as the friend of her schoolmate, Madame Iverney,
they deferred to her as to a hostess. Many of them she already saluted
by name, and to those who with messages were constantly motoring to and
from the front at Soissons she was particularly kind. Overnight the
legend of her charm, of her devotion to the soldiers of all ranks, had
spread from Soissons to Meaux, and from Meaux to Paris. It was noon of
that day when from the window of the second story Marie saw an armored
automobile sweep into the courtyard. It was driven by an officer, young
and appallingly good-looking, and, as was obvious by the way he spun
his car, one who held in contempt both the law of gravity and death.
That he was some one of importance seemed evident. Before he could
alight the adjutant had raced to meet him. With her eye for detail Marie
observed that the young officer, instead of imparting information,
received it. He must, she guessed, have just arrived from Paris, and his
brother officer either was telling him the news or giving him his
orders. Whichever it might be, in what was told him the new arrival was
greatly interested. One instant in indignation his gauntleted fist beat
upon the steering-wheel, the next he smiled with pleasure. To interpret
this pantomime was difficult; and, the better to inform herself, Marie
descended the stairs.
As she reached the lower hall the two officers entered. To the spy the
man last to arrive was always the one of greatest importance; and Marie
assured herself that through her friend, the adjutant, to meet with this
one would prove easy.
But the chauffeur commander of the armored car made it most difficult.
At sight of Marie, much to her alarm, as though greeting a dear friend,
he snatched his kepi from his head and sprang toward her.
"The major," he cried, "told me you were here, that you are Madame
d'Aurillac." His eyes spoke his admiration. In delight he beamed upon
her. "I might have known it!" he murmured. With the confidence of one
who is sure he brings good news, he laughed happily. "And I," he cried,
Who the devil "Pierrot" might be the spy could not guess. She knew only
that she wished by a German shell "Pierrot" and his car had been blown
to tiny fragments. Was it a trap, she asked herself, or was the handsome
youth really some one the Countess d'Aurillac should know. But, as from
his introducing himself it was evident he could not know that lady very
well, Marie took courage and smiled.
"_Which_ 'Pierrot'?" she parried.
"Pierre Thierry!" cried the youth.
To the relief of Marie he turned upon the adjutant and to him explained
who Pierre Thierry might be.
"Paul d'Aurillac," he said, "is my dearest friend. When he married this
charming lady I was stationed in Algiers, and but for the war I might
never have met her."
To Marie, with his hand on his heart in a most charming manner, he
bowed. His admiration he made no effort to conceal.
"And so," he said, "I know why there is war!"
The adjutant smiled indulgently, and departed on his duties, leaving
them alone. The handsome eyes of Captain Thierry were raised to the
violet eyes of Marie. They appraised her boldly and as boldly expressed
In burlesque the young man exclaimed indignantly: "Paul deceived me!" he
cried. "He told me he had married the most beautiful woman in Laon. He
has married the most beautiful woman in France!"
To Marie this was not impertinence, but gallantry.
This was a language she understood, and this was the type of man,
because he was the least difficult to manage, she held most in contempt.
"But about you, Paul did not deceive me," she retorted. In apparent
confusion her eyes refused to meet his. "He told me 'Pierrot' was a most
She continued hurriedly. With wifely solicitude she asked concerning
Paul. She explained that for a week she had been a prisoner in the
chateau, and, since the mobilization, of her husband save that he was
with his regiment in Paris she had heard nothing. Captain Thierry was
able to give her later news. Only the day previous, on the boulevards,
he had met Count d'Aurillac. He was at the Grand Hotel, and as Thierry
was at once motoring back to Paris he would give Paul news of their
meeting. He hoped he might tell him that soon his wife also would be in
Paris. Marie explained that only the illness of her aunt prevented her
from that same day joining her husband. Her manner became serious.
"And what other news have you?" she asked. "Here on the firing-line we
know less of what is going forward than you in Paris."
So Pierre Thierry told her all he knew. They were preparing despatches
he was at once to carry back to the General Staff, and, for the moment,
his time was his own. How could he better employ it than in talking of
the war with a patriotic and charming French woman?
In consequence Marie acquired a mass of facts, gossip, and guesses. From
these she mentally selected such information as, to her employers across
the Aisne, would be of vital interest.
And to rid herself of Thierry and on the fourth floor seek Anfossi was
now her only wish. But, in attempting this, by the return of the
adjutant she was delayed. To Thierry the adjutant gave a sealed
"Thirty-one, Boulevard des Invalides," he said. With a smile he turned
to Marie. "And you will accompany him!"
"I!" exclaimed Marie. She was sick with sudden terror.
But the tolerant smile of the adjutant reassured her.
"The count, your husband," he explained, "has learned of your detention
here by the enemy, and he has besieged the General Staff to have you
convoyed safely to Paris." The adjutant glanced at a field telegram he
held open in his hand. "He asks," he continued, "that you be permitted
to return in the car of his friend, Captain Thierry, and that on
arriving you join him at the Grand Hotel."
Thierry exclaimed with delight.
"But how charming!" he cried. "To-night you must both dine with me at La
Rue's." He saluted his superior officer. "Some petrol, sir," he said.
"And I am ready." To Marie he added: "The car will be at the steps in
five minutes." He turned and left them.
The thoughts of Marie, snatching at an excuse for delay, raced madly.
The danger of meeting the Count d'Aurillac, her supposed husband, did
not alarm her. The Grand Hotel has many exits, and, even before they
reached it, for leaving the car she could invent an excuse that the
gallant Thierry would not suspect. But what now concerned her was how,
before she was whisked away to Paris, she could convey to Anfossi the
information she had gathered from Thierry. First, of a woman overcome
with delight at being reunited with her husband she gave an excellent
imitation; then she exclaimed in distress: "But my aunt, Madame Benet!"
she cried. "I cannot leave her!"
"The Sisters of St. Francis," said the adjutant, "arrive within an hour
to nurse the wounded. They will care also for your aunt."
Marie concealed her chagrin. "Then I will at once prepare to go," she
The adjutant handed her a slip of paper. "Your _laisser-passer_ to
Paris," he said. "You leave in five minutes, madame!"
As temporary hostess of the chateau Marie was free to visit any part of
it, and as she passed her door a signal from Madame Benet told her that
Anfossi was on the fourth floor, that he was at work, and that the coast
was clear. Softly, in the felt slippers she always wore, as she
explained, in order not to disturb the wounded, she mounted the
staircase. In her hand she carried the housekeeper's keys, and as an
excuse it was her plan to return with an armful of linen for the
arriving Sisters. But Marie never reached the top of the stairs. When
her eyes rose to the level of the fourth floor she came to a sudden
halt. At what she saw terror gripped her, bound her hand and foot, and
turned her blood to ice.
At her post for an instant Madame Benet had slept, and an officer of the
staff, led by curiosity, chance, or suspicion, had, unobserved and
unannounced, mounted to the fourth floor. When Marie saw him he was in
front of the room that held the wireless. His back was toward her, but
she saw that he was holding the door to the room ajar, that his eye was
pressed to the opening, and that through it he had pushed the muzzle of
his automatic. What would be the fate of Anfossi Marie knew. Nor did she
for an instant consider it. Her thoughts were of her own safety; that
she might live. Not that she might still serve the Wilhelmstrasse, the
Kaiser, or the Fatherland; but that she might live. In a moment Anfossi
would be denounced, the chateau would ring with the alarm, and, though
she knew Anfossi would not betray her, by others she might be accused.
To avert suspicion from herself she saw only one way open. She must be
the first to denounce Anfossi.
Like a deer she leaped down the marble stairs and, in a panic she had
no need to assume, burst into the presence of the staff.
"Gentlemen!" she gasped, "my servant--the chauffeur--Briand is a spy!
There is a German wireless in the chateau. He is using it! I have seen
him." With exclamations, the officers rose to their feet. General Andre
alone remained seated. General Andre was a veteran of many Colonial
wars: Cochin-China, Algiers, Morocco. The great war, when it came, found
him on duty in the Intelligence Department. His aquiline nose, bristling
white eyebrows, and flashing, restless eyes gave him his nickname of
In amazement, the flashing eyes were now turned upon Marie. He glared at
her as though he thought she suddenly had flown mad.
"A German wireless!" he protested. "It is impossible!"
"I was on the fourth floor," panted Marie, "collecting linen for the
Sisters. In the room next to the linen closet I heard a strange buzzing
sound. I opened the door softly. I saw Briand with his back to me seated
by an instrument. There were receivers clamped to his ears! My God! The
disgrace. The disgrace to my husband and to me, who vouched for him to
you!" Apparently in an agony of remorse, the fingers of the woman laced
and interlaced. "I cannot forgive myself!"
The officers moved toward the door, but General Andre halted them. Still
in a tone of incredulity, he demanded: "When did you see this?"
Marie knew the question was coming, knew she must explain how she saw
Briand, and yet did not see the staff officer who, with his prisoner,
might now at any instant appear. She must make it plain she had
discovered the spy and left the upper part of the house before the
officer had visited it. When that was she could not know, but the chance
was that he had preceded her by only a few minutes.
"When did you see this?" repeated the general.
"But just now," cried Marie; "not ten minutes since."
"Why did you not come to me at once?"
"I was afraid," replied Marie. "If I moved I was afraid he might hear
me, and he, knowing I would expose him, would kill me--and so _escape
you!_" There was an eager whisper of approval. For silence, General
Andre slapped his hand upon the table.
"Then," continued Marie, "I understood with the receivers on his ears he
could not have heard me open the door, nor could he hear me leave, and
I ran to my aunt. The thought that we had harbored such an animal
sickened me, and I was weak enough to feel faint. But only for an
instant. Then I came here." She moved swiftly to the door. "Let me show
you the room," she begged; "you can take him in the act." Her eyes, wild
with the excitement of the chase, swept the circle. "Will you come?" she
Unconscious of the crisis he interrupted, the orderly on duty opened the
"Captain Thierry's compliments," he recited mechanically, "and is he to
delay longer for Madame d'Aurillac?"
With a sharp gesture General Andre waved Marie toward the door. Without
rising, he inclined his head. "Adieu, madame," he said. "We act at once
upon your information. I thank you!"
As she crossed from the hall to the terrace, the ears of the spy were
assaulted by a sudden tumult of voices. They were raised in threats and
curses. Looking back, she saw Anfossi descending the stairs. His hands
were held above his head; behind him, with his automatic, the staff
officer she had surprised on the fourth floor was driving him forward.
Above the clenched fists of the soldiers that ran to meet him, the eyes
of Anfossi were turned toward her. His face was expressionless. His eyes
neither accused nor reproached. And with the joy of one who has looked
upon and then escaped the guillotine, Marie ran down the steps to the
waiting automobile. With a pretty cry of pleasure she leaped into the
seat beside Thierry. Gayly she threw out her arms. "To Paris!" she
commanded. The handsome eyes of Thierry, eloquent with admiration,
looked back into hers. He stooped, threw in the clutch, and the great
gray car, with the machine gun and its crew of privates guarding the
rear, plunged through the park.
"To Paris!" echoed Thierry.
In the order in which Marie had last seen them, Anfossi and the staff
officer entered the room of General Andre, and upon the soldiers in the
hall the door was shut. The face of the staff officer was grave, but his
voice could not conceal his elation.
"My general," he reported, "I found this man in the act of giving
information to the enemy. There is a wireless--"
General Andre rose slowly. He looked neither at the officer nor at his
prisoner. With frowning eyes he stared down at the maps upon his table.
"I know," he interrupted. "Some one has already told me." He paused,
and then, as though recalling his manners, but still without raising his
eyes, he added: "You have done well, sir."
In silence the officers of the staff stood motionless. With surprise
they noted that, as yet, neither in anger nor curiosity had General
Andre glanced at the prisoner. But of the presence of the general the
spy was most acutely conscious. He stood erect, his arms still raised,
but his body strained forward, and on the averted eyes of the general
his own were fixed.
In an agony of supplication they asked a question.
At last, as though against his wish, toward the spy the general turned
his head, and their eyes met. And still General Andre was silent. Then
the arms of the spy, like those of a runner who has finished his race
and breasts the tape exhausted, fell to his sides. In a voice low and
vibrant he spoke his question.
"It has been so long, sir," he pleaded. "May I not come home?"
General Andre turned to the astonished group surrounding him. His voice
was hushed like that of one who speaks across an open grave.
"Gentlemen," he began, "my children," he added. "A German spy, a woman,
involved in a scandal your brother in arms, Henri Ravignac. His honor,
he thought, was concerned, and without honor he refused to live. To
prove him guiltless his younger brother Charles asked leave to seek out
the woman who had betrayed Henri, and by us was detailed on secret
service. He gave up home, family, friends. He lived in exile, in
poverty, at all times in danger of a swift and ignoble death. In the War
Office we know him as one who has given to his country services she
cannot hope to reward. For she cannot return to him the years he has
lost. She cannot return to him his brother. But she can and will clear
the name of Henri Ravignac, and upon his brother Charles bestow
promotion and honors."
The general turned and embraced the spy. "My children," he said,
"welcome your brother. He has come home."
Before the car had reached the fortifications, Marie Gessler had
arranged her plan of escape. She had departed from the chateau without
even a hand-bag, and she would say that before the shops closed she must
Le Printemps lay in their way, and she asked that, when they reached it,
for a moment she might alight. Captain Thierry readily gave permission.
From the department store it would be most easy to disappear, and in
anticipation Marie smiled covertly. Nor was the picture of Captain
Thierry impatiently waiting outside unamusing.
But before Le Printemps was approached, the car turned sharply down a
narrow street. On one side, along its entire length, ran a high gray
wall, grim and forbidding. In it was a green gate studded with iron
bolts. Before this the automobile drew suddenly to a halt. The crew of
the armored car tumbled off the rear seat, and one of them beat upon the
green gate. Marie felt a hand of ice clutch at her throat. But she
"And what is this?" she cried gayly.
At her side Captain Thierry was smiling down at her, but his smile was
"It is the prison of St. Lazare," he said. "It is not becoming," he
added sternly, "that the name of the Countess d'Aurillac should be made
common as the Paris road!"
Fighting for her life, Marie thrust herself against him; her arm that
throughout the journey had rested on the back of the driving-seat
caressed his shoulders; her lips and the violet eyes were close to his.
"Why should you care?" she whispered fiercely. "You have _me_! Let the
Count d'Aurillac look after the honor of his wife himself."
The charming Thierry laughed at her mockingly.
"He means to," he said. "I _am_ the Count d'Aurillac!"
To fate, "Jimmie" Blagwin had signalled the "supreme gesture." He had
accomplished the Great Adventure. He was dead.
And as he sat on his trunk in the tiny hall bedroom, and in the
afternoon papers read of his suicide, his eyes were lit with pleasurable
pride. Not at the nice things the obituaries told of his past, but
because his act of self-sacrifice, so carefully considered, had been
carried to success. As he read Jimmie smiled with self-congratulation.
He felt glad he was alive; or, to express it differently, felt glad he
was dead. And he hoped Jeanne, his late wife, now his widow, also would
be glad. But not _too_ glad. In return for relieving Jeanne of his
presence he hoped she might at times remember him with kindness. Of her
always would he think gratefully and tenderly. Nothing could end his
love for Jeanne--not even this suicide.
As children, in winter in New York, in summer on Long Island, Jimmie
Blagwin and Jeanne Thayer had grown up together. They had the same
tastes in sports, the same friends, the same worldly advantages.
Neither of them had many ideas. It was after they married that Jeanne
began to borrow ideas and doubt the advantages.
For the first three years after the wedding, in the old farmhouse which
Jimmie had made over into a sort of idealized country club, Jeanne lived
a happy, healthy, out-of-door existence. To occupy her there were
Jimmie's hunters and a pack of joyous beagles; for tennis, at week-ends
Jimmie filled the house with men, and during the week they both played
polo, he with the Meadow Brooks and she with the Meadow Larks, and the
golf links of Piping Rock ran almost to their lodge-gate. Until Proctor
Maddox took a cottage at Glen Cove and joined the golf-club, than Jeanne
and Jimmie on all Long Island no couple were so content.
At that time Proctor Maddox was the young and brilliant editor of the
_Wilderness_ magazine, the wilderness being the world we live in, and
the Voice crying in it the voice of Proctor Maddox. He was a Socialist
and Feminist, he flirted with syndicalism, and he had a good word even
for the I.W.W. He was darkly handsome, his eyeglasses were fastened to a
black ribbon, and he addressed his hostess as "dear lady." He was that
sort. Women described him as "dangerous," and liked him because he
talked of things they did not understand, and because he told each of
them it was easy to see it would be useless to flatter _her_. The men
did not like him. The oldest and wealthiest members of the club
protested that the things Maddox said in his magazine should exclude him
from the society of law-abiding, money-making millionaires. But Freddy
Bayliss, the leader of the younger crowd, said that, to him, it did not
matter what Maddox said in the _Wilderness_, so long as he stayed there.
It was Bayliss who christened him "the Voice."
Until the Voice came to Glen Cove all that troubled Jeanne was that her
pony had sprained a tendon, and that in the mixed doubles her eye was
off the ball. Proctor Maddox suggested other causes for discontent.
"What does it matter," he demanded, "whether you hit a rubber ball
inside a whitewashed line, or not? That energy, that brain, that
influence of yours over others, that something men call--charm, should
be exerted to emancipate yourself and your unfortunate sisters."
"Emaciate myself," protested Jeanne eagerly; "do you mean I'm taking on
"I said 'emancipate,'" corrected Maddox. "I mean to free yourself of the
bonds that bind your sex; for instance, the bonds of matrimony. It is
obsolete, barbarous. It makes of women--slaves and chattels."
"But, since I married, I'm _much_ freer," protested Jeanne. "Mother
never let me play polo, or ride astride. But Jimmie lets me. He says
cross saddle is safer."
"Jimmie _lets_ you!" mocked the Voice. "_That_ is exactly what I mean.
Why should you go to him, or to any man, for permission? Are you his
cook asking for an evening out? No! You are a free soul, and your duty
is to keep your soul from bondage. There are others in the world besides
your husband. What of your duty to them? Have you ever thought of them?"
"No, I have not," confessed Jeanne. "Who do you mean by 'them'?
Shop-girls, and white slaves, and women who want to vote?"
"I mean the great army of the discontented," explained the Voice.
"And should I be discontented?" asked Jeanne. "Tell me why."
So, then and on many other occasions, Maddox told her why. It was one of
the best things he did.
People say, when the triangle forms, the husband always is the last to
see. But, if he loves his wife, he is the first. And after three years
of being married to Jeanne, and, before that, five years of wanting to
marry Jeanne, Jimmie loved her devotedly, entirely, slavishly. It was
the best thing _he_ did. So, when to Jeanne the change came, her husband
recognized it. What the cause was he could not fathom; he saw only that,
in spite of her impatient denials, she was discontented, restless,
unhappy. Thinking it might be that for too long they had gone "back to
the land," he suggested they might repeat their honeymoon in Paris. The
idea was received only with alarm. Concerning Jeanne, Jimmie decided
secretly to consult a doctor. Meanwhile he bought her a new hunter.
The awakening came one night at a dance at the country club. That
evening Jeanne was filled with unrest, and with Jimmie seemed
particularly aggrieved. Whatever he said gave offense; even his
eagerness to conciliate her was too obvious. With the other men who did
not dance, Jimmie was standing in the doorway when, over the heads of
those looking in from the veranda, he saw the white face and black eyes
of Maddox. Jimmie knew Maddox did not dance, at those who danced had
heard him jeer, and his presence caused him mild surprise. The editor,
leaning forward, unconscious that he was conspicuous, searched the
ballroom with his eyes. They were anxious, unsatisfied; they gave to his
pale face the look of one who is famished. Then suddenly his face lit
and he nodded eagerly. Following the direction of his eyes, Jimmie saw
his wife, over the shoulder of her partner, smiling at Maddox. Her face
was radiant; a great peace had descended upon it.
Jimmie knew just as surely as though Jeanne had told him. He walked out
and sat down on the low wall of the terrace with his back to the
club-house and his legs dangling. Below him in the moonlight lay the
great basin of the golf links, the white rectangle of the polo fields
with the gallows-like goals, and on a hill opposite, above the
tree-tops, the chimneys of his house. He was down for a tennis match the
next morning, and the sight of his home suggested to him only that he
ought to be in bed and asleep.
Then he recognized that he never would sleep again. He went over it from
the beginning, putting the pieces together. He never had liked Maddox,
but he had explained that by the fact that, as Maddox was so much more
intelligent than he, there could be little between them. And it was
because every one said he was so intelligent that he had looked upon his
devotion to Jeanne rather as a compliment. He wondered why already it
had not been plain to him. When Jeanne, who mocked at golf as a refuge
for old age, spent hours with Maddox on the links; when, after she had
declined to ride with her husband, on his return he would find her at
tea with Maddox in front of the wood fire.
That night, when he drove Jeanne home, she still was joyous, radiant; it
was now she who chided him upon being silent.
He waited until noon the next morning and then asked her if it were
true. It was true. Jeanne thanked him for coming to her so honestly and
straightforwardly. She also had been straightforward and honest. They
had waited, she said, not through deceit but only out of consideration
"Before we told you," Jeanne explained, "we wanted to be quite sure that
_I_ was sure."
The "we" hurt Jimmie like the stab of a rusty knife.
But he said only: "And you _are_ sure? Three years ago you were sure you
Jeanne's eyes were filled with pity, but she said: "That was three years
ago. I was a child, and now I am a woman. In many ways you have stood
still and I have gone on."
"That's true," said Jimmie; "you always were too good for me."
"_No_ woman is good enough for you," returned Jeanne loyally. "And your
brains are just as good as mine, only you haven't used them. I have
questioned and reached out and gained knowledge of all kinds. I am a
Feminist and you are not. If you were you would understand."
"I don't know even what a Feminist is," said Jimmie, "but I'm glad I'm
"A Feminist is one," explained Jeanne, "who does not think her life
should be devoted to one person, but to the world."
Jimmie shook his head and smiled miserably.
"_You_ are _my_ world," he said. "The only world I know. The only world
I want to know."
He walked to the fireplace and leaned his elbows on the mantel, and
buried his head in his hands. But that his distress might not hurt
Jeanne, he turned and, to give her courage, smiled.
"If you are going to devote yourself to the World," he asked, "and not
to any one person, why can't I sort of trail along? Why need you leave
me and go with--with some one else?"
"For the work I hope to do," answered Jeanne, "you and I are not suited.
But Proctor and I are suited. He says he never met a woman who
understands him as I do."
"Hell!" said Jimmie. After that he did not speak for some time. Then he
"He's going to marry you, of course?"
Jeanne flushed crimson.
"Of course!" she retorted. Her blush looked like indignation, and so
Jimmie construed it, but it was the blush of embarrassment. For Maddox
considered the ceremony of marriage an ignoble and barbaric bond. It
degraded the woman, he declared, in making her a slave, and the man in
that he accepted such a sacrifice. Jeanne had not argued with him. Until
she were free, to discuss it with him seemed indecent. But in her own
mind there was no doubt. If she were to be the helpmate of Proctor
Maddox in uplifting the world, she would be Mrs. Proctor Maddox; or,
much as he was to her, each would uplift the world alone. But she did
not see the necessity of explaining all this to Jimmie, so she said: "Of
"I will see the lawyers to-morrow," said Jimmie. "It will take some time
to arrange, and so," he added hopefully, "you can think it over."
Jeanne exclaimed miserably:
"I have thought of nothing else," she cried, "for six months!"
Jimmie bent above her and laid his hand upon her shoulder.
"I am sorry, so sorry," he said. "If I'd any brains I'd have seen how it
was long ago. Now I'll not waste time. You'll be rid of me as quick as
the courts can fix it."
He started for the door, but Jeanne caught his hand.
"Won't you kiss me, Jimmie?" she said.
Jimmie hesitated unhappily and Jeanne raised her eyes to his.
"Not since we were married, Jimmie," she said, "has any one kissed me
So Jimmie bent and kissed her. She clung to his sleeve.
"Jimmie," she begged, "you haven't told me you forgive me. Unless you
forgive me I can't go on with it. Tell me you forgive me!"
"Forgive you?" protested Jimmie. "I love you!"
When Jimmie went to the office of the lawyer, who also was his best
friend, and told him that Jennie wanted a separation, that young man
kicked the waste-paper basket against the opposite wall.
"I'll not do it," he protested, "and I won't let you do it, either. Why
should you smear your name and roll in the dirt and play dead to please
Jeanne? If Jeanne thinks I'm going to send you to a Raines hotel and
follow you up with detectives to furnish her with a fake divorce, you
can tell her I won't. What are they coming to?" demanded the best
friend. "What do they want? A man gives a woman all his love, all his
thoughts, gives her his name, his home; only asks to work his brains out
for her, only asks to see her happy. And she calls it 'charity,' calls
herself a 'slave'!" The best friend kicked violently at the place where
the waste-basket had been. "_Give_ them the vote, I say," he shouted.
"It's all they're good for!"
The violence of his friend did not impress Jimmie. As he walked up-town
the only part of the interview he carried with him was that there must
be no scandal. Not on his account. If Jeanne wished it, he assured
himself, in spite of the lawyer, he was willing, in the metaphor of that
gentleman, to "roll in the dirt and play dead." "Play dead!" The words
struck him full in the face. Were he dead and out of the way, Jeanne,
without a touch of scandal, could marry the man she loved. Jimmie halted
in his tracks. He believed he saw the only possible exit. He turned
into a side street, and between the silent houses, closed for the
summer, worked out his plan. For long afterward that city block remained
in his memory; the doctors' signs on the sills, the caretakers seeking
the air, the chauffeurs at the cab rank. For hours they watched the
passing and repassing of the young man, who with bent head and fixed
eyes struck at the pavement with his stick.
That he should really kill himself Jimmie did not for a moment
contemplate. To him self-destruction appeared only as an offense against
nature. On his primitive, out-of-door, fox-hunting mind the ethics of
suicide lay as uneasily as absinthe on the stomach of a baby. But, he
argued, by _pretending_ he were dead, he could set Jeanne free, could
save her from gossip, and could still dream of her, love her, and occupy
with her, if not the same continent, the same world.
He had three problems to solve, and as he considered them he devotedly
wished he might consult with a brain more clever than his own. But an
accomplice was out of the question. Were he to succeed, everybody must
be fooled; no one could share his secret. It was "a lone game, played
alone, and without my partner."
The three problems were: first, in order to protect his wife, to
provide for the suicide a motive other than the attentions of Maddox;
second, to make the suicide look like a real suicide; third, without
later creating suspicion, to draw enough money from the bank to keep
himself alive after he was dead. For his suicide Jeanne must not hold
herself to blame; she must not believe her conduct forced his end; above
every one else, she must be persuaded that in bringing about his death
she was completely innocent. What reasons then were accepted for
As to this, Jimmie, refusing to consider the act justified for any
reason, was somewhat at a loss. He had read of men who, owing to loss of
honor, loss of fortune, loss of health, had "gone out." He was
determined he owed it to himself not to go out under a cloud, and he
could not lose his money, as then there would be none to leave Jeanne;
so he must lose his health. As except for broken arms and collar-bones
he never had known a sick-bed, this last was as difficult as the others,
but it must serve. After much consideration he decided he would go
blind. At least he would pretend he was going blind. To give a semblance
of truth to this he would that day consult distinguished oculists and,
in spite of their assurances, would tell them that slowly and surely
his eyesight was failing him. He would declare to them, in the dread of
such a catastrophe, he was of a mind to seek self-destruction. To others
he would confide the secret of his blindness and his resolution not to
survive it. And, later, all of these would remember and testify.
The question of money also was difficult. After his death he no longer
could sign a check or negotiate securities. He must have cash. But if
from the bank he drew large sums of actual money, if he converted stocks
and bonds into cash and a week later disappeared, apparently forever,
questions as to what became of the sums he had collected would arise,
and that his disappearance was genuine would be doubted. This difficulty
made Jimmie for a moment wonder if being murdered for his money, and
having his body concealed by the murderer, would not be better than
suicide. It would, at least, explain the disappearance of the money. But
he foresaw that for his murder some innocent one might be suspected and
hanged. This suggested leaving behind him evidence to show that the one
who murdered him was none other than Proctor Maddox. The idea appealed
to his sense of humor and justice. It made the punishment fit the
crime. Not without reluctance did he abandon it and return to his plan
of suicide. But he recognized that to supply himself with any large sum
of money would lead to suspicion and that he must begin his new life
almost empty-handed. In his new existence he must work.
For that day and until the next afternoon he remained in town, and in
that time prepared the way for his final exit. At a respectable
lodging-house on West Twenty-third Street, near the ferry, he gave his
name as Henry Hull, and engaged a room. To this room, from a department
store he never before had entered, he shipped a trunk and valise marked
with his new initials and filled with clothes to suit his new estate. To
supply himself with money, at banks, clubs, and restaurants he cashed
many checks for small sums. The total of his collections, from places
scattered over all the city, made quite a comfortable bank roll. And in
his box at the safe-deposit vault he came upon a windfall. It was an
emerald bracelet left him by an eccentric aunt who had lived and died in
Paris. The bracelet he had offered to Jeanne, but she did not like it
and had advised him to turn it into money and, as the aged relative had
wished, spend it upon himself. That was three years since, and now were
it missing Jeanne would believe that at some time in the past he had
followed her advice. So he carried the bracelet away with him. For a
year it would keep a single man in comfort.
His next step was to acquaint himself with the nature of the affliction
on account of which he was to destroy himself. At the public library he
collected a half-dozen books treating of blindness, and selected his
particular malady. He picked out glaucoma, and for his purpose it was
admirably suited. For, so Jimmie discovered, in a case of glaucoma the
oculist was completely at the mercy of the patient. Except to the
patient the disease gave no sign. To an oculist a man might say, "Three
nights ago my eyesight played me the following tricks," and from that
the oculist would know the man was stricken with glaucoma; but the eyes
would tell him nothing.
The next morning to four oculists Jimmie detailed his symptoms. Each
looked grave, and all diagnosed his trouble as glaucoma.
"I knew it!" groaned Jimmie, and assured them sooner than go blind he
would jump into the river. They pretended to treat this as an
extravagance, but later, when each of them was interviewed, he
remembered that Mr. Blagwin had threatened to drown himself. On his way
to the train Jimmie purchased a pair of glasses and, in order to invite
questions, in the club car pretended to read with them. When his friends
expressed surprise, Jimmie told them of the oculists he had consulted,
and that they had informed him his case was hopeless. If this proved
true, he threatened to drown himself.
On his return home he explained to Jeanne he had seen the lawyer, and
that that gentleman suggested the less she knew of what was going on the
better. In return Jeanne told him she had sent for Maddox and informed
him that, until the divorce was secured, they had best not be seen
together. The wisdom of this appealed even to Maddox, and already, to
fill in what remained of the summer, he had departed for Bar Harbor. To
Jimmie the relief of his absence was inexpressible. He had given himself
only a week to live, and, for the few days still remaining to him, to be
alone with Jeanne made him miserably happy. The next morning Jimmie
confessed to his wife that his eyes were failing him. The trouble came,
he explained, from a fall he had received the year before
steeplechasing. He had not before spoken of it, as he did not wish to
distress her. The oculists he had consulted gave him no hope. He would
end it, he declared, in the gun-room.
Jeanne was thoroughly alarmed. That her old playmate, lover, husband
should come to such a plight at the very time she had struck him the
hardest blow of all filled her with remorse. In a hundred ways she tried
to make up to him for the loss of herself and for the loss of his eyes.
She became his constant companion; never had she been so kind and so
considerate. They saw no one from the outside, and each day through the
wood paths that circled their house made silent pilgrimages. And each
day on a bench, placed high, where the view was fairest, together, and
yet so far apart, watched the sun sink into the sound.
"These are the times I will remember," said Jimmie; "when--when I am
The last night they sat on the bench he took out his knife and carved
the date--July, 1913.
"What does that mean?" asked Jeanne.
"It means to-night I seem to love you more and need you more than ever
before," said Jimmie. "That is what it means. Will you remember?"
Jeanne was looking away from him, but she stretched out her hand and
laid it upon his.
"To-morrow I am going to town," said Jimmie, "to see that oculist from
Paris. They say what he tells you is the last word. And, if he says--"
Jeanne swung toward him and with all the jealousy of possession held
his hand. Her own eyes were blurred with tears.
"He will tell you the others are wrong!" she cried. "I know he will. He
must! You--who have always been so kind! God could not be so cruel!"
Jimmie stopped her.
"If I am not to see _you_--"
During his last week at home Jimmie had invented a Doctor Picard, a
distinguished French oculist, who, on a tour of the world, was by the
rarest chance at that moment in New York. According to Jimmie, all the
other oculists had insisted he must consult Picard, and might consider
what Picard said as final. Picard was staying with a friend--Jimmie did
not say where--and after receiving Jimmie was at once taking the train
for San Francisco. As Jimmie had arranged his scenario, it was Picard
who was to deal him his death sentence.
Her husband seemed so entirely to depend on what Picard might say that
Jeanne decided, should the verdict be unfavorable, she had best be at
his side. But, as this would have upset Jimmie's plan, he argued against
it. Should the news be bad, he pointed out, for her to receive it in her
own home would be much easier for both. Jeanne felt she had been
rebuffed, but that, if Jimmie did not want her with him, she no longer
was in a position to insist.
So she contented herself with driving him to the train and, before those
who knew them at the station, kissing him good-by.
Afterward, that she had done so comforted her greatly.
"I'll be praying for you, Jimmie," she whispered. "And, as soon as you
So upset was Jimmie by the kiss, and by the knowledge that he was saying
farewell for the last time, that he nearly exposed his purpose.
"I want the last thing I say to you," he stammered, "to be this: that
whatever you do will be right. I love you so that I will understand."
When he arrived in New York, in his own name, he booked a stateroom on
the _Ceramic_. She was listed to sail that evening after midnight. It
was because she departed at that hour that for a week Jimmie had fixed
upon her as furnishing the scene of his exit. During the day he told
several of his friends that the report of the great oculist had been
against him. Later, they recalled that he talked wildly, that he was
deeply despondent. In the afternoon he sent a telegram to Jeanne:
"Verdict unfavorable. Will remain to-night in town.
All love. J."
At midnight he went on board. The decks and saloons were swarming and
noisy with seagoers, many of whom had come to the ship directly from the
theatres and restaurants, the women bareheaded, in evening gowns. Jimmie
felt grateful to them. They gave to the moment of his taking off an air
of gentle gayety. Among those who were sailing, and those who had come
to wish them "bon voyage," many were known to Jimmie. He told them he
was going abroad at the command of his oculist. Also, he forced himself
upon the notice of officers and stewards, giving them his name, and
making inquiries concerning the non-appearance of fictitious baggage.
Later, they also recalled the young man in dinner jacket and golf cap
who had lost a dressing-case marked "James Blagwin."
In his cabin Jimmie wrote two letters. The one to the captain of the
"After we pass Fire Island I am going overboard. Do
not make any effort to find me, as it will be useless.
I am sorry to put you to this trouble."
The second letter was to Jeanne. It read:
"Picard agreed with the others. My case is hopeless.
I am ending all to-night. Forgive me. I leave you all
the love in all the world. Jimmie."
When he had addressed these letters he rang for the steward.
"I am not going to wait until we leave the dock," he said. "I am turning
in now. I am very tired, and I don't want you to wake me on any excuse
whatsoever until to-morrow at noon. Better still, don't come until I
When the steward had left him, Jimmie pinned the two letters upon the
pillow, changed the steamer-cap for an Alpine hat, and beneath a
rain-coat concealed his evening clothes. He had purposely selected the
deck cabin farthest aft. Accordingly, when after making the cabin dark
he slipped from it, the break in the deck that separated the first from
the second class passengers was but a step distant. The going-ashore
bugles had sounded, and more tumult than would have followed had the
ship struck a rock now spread to every deck. With sharp commands
officers were speeding the parting guests; the parting guests were
shouting passionate good-bys and sending messages to Aunt Maria;
quartermasters howled hoarse warnings, donkey-engines panted under the
weight of belated luggage, fall and tackle groaned and strained. And the
ship's siren, enraged at the delay, protested in one long-drawn-out,
Jimmie slipped down the accommodation ladder that led to the well-deck,
side-stepped a yawning hatch, dodged a swinging cargo net stuffed with
trunks, and entered the second-class smoking-room. From there he elbowed
his way to the second-class promenade deck. A stream of tearful and
hilarious visitors who, like sheep in a chute, were being herded down
the gangway, engulfed him. Unresisting, Jimmie let himself, by weight of
numbers, be carried forward.
A moment later he was shot back to the dock and to the country from
which at that moment, in deck cabin A4, he was supposed to be drawing
Dodging the electric lights, on foot he made his way to his
lodging-house. The night was warm and moist, and, seated on the stoop,
stripped to shirt and trousers, was his landlord.
He greeted Jimmie affably.
"Evening, Mr. Hull," he said. "Hope this heat won't keep you awake."
Jimmie thanked him and passed hurriedly.
The landlord had said it.
Somewhere out at sea, between Fire Island and Scotland Lightship, the
waves were worrying with what once had been Jimmie Blagwin, and in a
hall bedroom on Twenty-third Street Henry Hull, with frightened eyes,
sat staring across the wharves, across the river, thinking of a
farmhouse on Long Island.
His last week on earth had been more of a strain on Jimmie than he
appreciated; and the night the _Ceramic_ sailed he slept the drugged
sleep of complete nervous exhaustion. Late the next morning, while he
still slept, a passenger on the _Ceramic_ stumbled upon the fact of his
disappearance. The man knew Jimmie; had greeted him the night before
when he came on board, and was seeking him that he might subscribe to a
pool on the run. When to his attack on Jimmie's door there was no reply,
he peered through the air-port, saw on the pillow, where Jimmie's head
should have been, two letters, and reported to the purser. Already the
ship was three hundred miles from where Jimmie had announced he would
drown himself; a search showed he was not on board, and the evidence of
a smoking-room steward, who testified that at one o'clock he had left
Mr. Blagwin alone on deck, gazing "mournful-like" at Fire Island, seemed
to prove Jimmie had carried out his threat. When later the same
passenger the steward had mistaken for Jimmie appeared in the
smoking-room and ordered a drink from him, the steward was rattled. But
as the person who had last seen Jimmie Blagwin alive he had gained
melancholy interest, and, as his oft-told tale was bringing him many
shillings, he did not correct it. Accordingly, from Cape Sable the news
of Jimmie's suicide was reported. That afternoon it appeared in all the
late editions of the evening papers.
Pleading fever, Jimmie explained to his landlord that for him to venture
out by day was most dangerous, and sent the landlord after the
newspapers. The feelings with which he read them were mixed. He was
proud of the complete success of his plot, but the inevitableness of it
terrified him. The success was _too_ complete. He had left himself no
loophole. He had locked the door on himself and thrown the key out of
the window. Now, that she was lost to him forever, he found, if that
were possible, he loved his wife more devotedly than before. He felt
that to live in the same world with Jeanne and never speak to her, never
even look at her, could not be borne. He was of a mind to rush to the
wharf and take another leap into the dark waters, and this time without
a life-line. From this he was restrained only by the thought that if he
used infinite caution, at infrequent intervals, at a great distance, he
still might look upon his wife. This he assured himself would be
possible only after many years had aged him and turned his hair gray.
Then on second thoughts he believed to wait so long was not absolutely
necessary. It would be safe enough, he argued, if he grew a beard. He
always had been clean-shaven, and he was confident a beard would
disguise him. He wondered how long a time must pass before one would
grow. Once on a hunting-trip he had gone for two weeks without shaving,
and the result had not only disguised but disgusted him. His face had
changed to one like those carved on cocoanuts. A recollection of this
gave him great pleasure. His spirits rose happily. He saw himself in the
rags of a tramp, his face hidden in an unkempt beard, skulking behind
the hedges that surrounded his house. From this view-point, before
sailing away from her forever, he would again steal a look at Jeanne. He
determined to postpone his departure until he had grown a beard.
Meanwhile he would plead illness, and keep to his room, or venture out
only at night. Comforted by the thought that in two weeks he might again
see his wife, as she sat on the terrace or walked in her gardens, he
sank peaceably to sleep.
The next morning the landlord brought him the papers. In them were many
pictures of himself as a master of foxhounds, as a polo-player, as a
gentleman jockey. The landlord looked at him curiously. Five minutes
later, on a trivial excuse, he returned and again studied Jimmie as
closely as though he were about to paint his portrait. Then two of the
other boarders, chums of the landlord, knocked at the door, to borrow a
match, to beg the loan of the morning paper. Each was obviously excited,
each stared accusingly. Jimmie fell into a panic. He felt that if
already his identity was questioned, than hiding in his room and growing
a beard nothing could be more suspicious. At noon, for West Indian
ports, a German boat was listed to sail from the Twenty-fourth Street
wharf. Jimmie decided at once to sail with her and, until his beard was
grown, not to return. It was necessary first to escape the suspicious
landlord, and to that end he noiselessly packed his trunk and suit-case.
In front of the house, in an unending procession, taxi-cabs returning
empty from the Twenty-third Street ferry passed the door, and from the
street Jimmie hailed one. Before the landlord could voice his doubts
Jimmie was on the sidewalk, his bill had been paid, and, giving the
address of a hotel on Fourteenth Street, he was away.
At the Fourteenth Street hotel Jimmie dismissed the taxi-cab and asked
for a room adjoining an imaginary Senator Gates. When the clerk told him
Senator Gates was not at that hotel, Jimmie excitedly demanded to be led
to the telephone. He telephoned the office of the steamship line: and,
in the name of Henry Hull, secured a cabin. Then he explained to the
clerk that over the telephone he had learned that his friend, Senator
Gates, was at another hotel. He regretted that he must follow him.
Another taxi was called, and Jimmie drove to an inconspicuous and
old-fashioned hotel on the lower East Side, patronized exclusively by
gunmen. There, in not finding Senator Gates, he was again disappointed,
and now having broken the link that connected him with the suspicious
landlord, he drove back to within a block of his original starting-point
and went on board the ship. Not until she was off Sandy Hook did he
leave his cabin.
It was July, and passengers to the tropics were few; and when Jimmie
ventured on deck he found most of them gathered at the port rail. They
were gazing intently over the ship's side. Thinking the pilot might be
leaving, Jimmie joined them. A young man in a yachting-cap was pointing
north and speaking in the voice of a conductor of a "seeing New York"
"Just between that lighthouse and the bow of this ship," he exclaimed,
"is where yesterday James Blagwin jumped overboard. At any moment we may
see the body!"
An excitable passenger cried aloud and pointed at some floating seaweed.
"I'll bet that's it now!" he shouted.
Jimmie exclaimed indignantly:
"I'll bet you ten dollars it isn't!" he said.
In time the ship touched at Santiago, Kingston, and Colon, but, fearing
recognition, Jimmie saw these places only from the deck. He travelled
too fast for newspapers to overtake him, and those that on the return
passage met the ship, of his death gave no details. So, except that his
suicide had been accepted, Jimmie knew nothing.
Least of all did he know, or even guess, that his act of renunciation,
intended to bring to Jeanne happiness, had nearly brought about her own
end. She believed Jimmie was dead, but not for a moment did she believe
it was for fear of blindness he had killed himself. She and Maddox had
killed him. Between them they had murdered the man who, now that he was
gone, she found she loved devotedly. To a shocked and frightened letter
of condolence from Maddox she wrote one that forever ordered him out of
her life. Then she set about making a saint of Jimmie, and counting the
days when in another world they would meet, and her years of remorse,
penitence, and devotion would cause him to forgive her. In their home
she shut herself off from every one. She made of it a shrine to Jimmie.
She kept his gloves on the hall table; on her writing-desk she placed
flowers before his picture. Preston, the butler, and the other servants
who had been long with them feared for her sanity, but, loving "Mr.
James" as they did, sympathized with her morbidness. So, in the old
farmhouse, it was as though Jimmie still stamped through the halls, or
from his room, as he dressed, whistled merrily. In the kennels the
hounds howled dismally, in the stables at each footstep the ponies
stamped with impatience, on the terrace his house dog, Huang Su, lay
with his eyes fixed upon the road waiting for the return of the master,
and in the gardens a girl in black, wasted and white-faced, walked alone
and rebelled that she was still alive.
After six weeks, when the ship re-entered New York harbor, Jimmie, his
beard having grown, and wearing gold-rimmed spectacles, walked boldly
down the gangplank. His confidence was not misplaced. The polo-player,
clean-faced, lean, and fit, had disappeared. Six weeks of German
cooking, a German barber, and the spectacles had produced a graduate of
At a furnished room on a side street Jimmie left his baggage, and at
once at the public library, in the back numbers of the daily papers,
read the accounts of his death and interviews with his friends. They all
agreed the reason for his suicide was his fear of approaching blindness.
As he read, Jimmie became deeply depressed. Any sneaking hopes he might
have held that he was not dead were now destroyed. The evidence of his
friends was enough to convince any one. It convinced him. Now that it
was too late, his act of self-sacrifice appeared supremely stupid and
ridiculous. Bitterly he attacked himself as a bungler and an ass. He
assured himself he should have made a fight for it; should have fought
for his wife: and against Maddox. Instead of which he weakly had effaced
himself, had surrendered his rights, had abandoned his wife at a time
when most was required of him. He tortured himself by thinking that
probably at that very moment she was in need of his help. And at that
very moment head-lines in the paper he was searching proved this was
"BLAGWIN'S LOST WILL," he read. "DETECTIVES RELINQUISH SEARCH! REWARD
OF TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS FAILS TO BRING CLEW!"
Jimmie raced through the back numbers. They told him his will, in which
he had left everything to Jeanne, could not be found; that in
consequence, except her widow's third, all of his real estate, which was
the bulk of his property, would now go to two distant cousins who
already possessed more than was good for them, and who in Paris were
leading lives of elegant wastefulness. The will had been signed the week
before his wedding-day, but the lawyer who had drawn it was dead, and
the witnesses, two servants, had long since quit Jimmie's service and
could not be found. It was known Jimmie kept the will in the safe at his
country house, but from the safe it had disappeared.
Jimmie's best friend, and now Jeanne's lawyer, the man who had refused
him the divorce, had searched the house from the attic to the coal
cellar; detectives had failed to detect; rewards had remained unclaimed;
no one could tell where the will was hidden. Only Jimmie could tell. And
Jimmie was dead. And no one knew that better than Jimmie. Again he
upbraided himself. Why had he not foreseen this catastrophe? Why,
before his final taking off, had he not returned the will to the safe?
Now, a word from him would give Jeanne all his fortune, and that word he
could not speak.
The will was between the leaves of a copy of "Pickwick," and it stood on
a shelf in his bedroom. One night, six months before, to alter a small
bequest, he had carried the will up-stairs and written a rough draft of
the new codicil. And then, merely because he was sleepy and disinclined
to struggle with a combination lock, he had stuck the will in the book
he was reading. He intended the first thing the next morning to put it
back in the safe. But the first thing the next morning word came from
the kennels that during the night six beagle puppies had arrived, and
naturally Jimmie gave no thought to anything so unimportant as a will.
Nor since then had he thought of it. And now how was he, a dead man, to
That those in the library might not observe his agitation, he went
outside, and in Bryant Park on a bench faced his problem. Except
himself, of the hidden place of the will no one could possibly know. So,
if even by an anonymous letter, or by telephone, he gave the information
to his late lawyer or to the detectives, they at once would guess from
where the clew came and that James Blagwin was still alive. So that plan
was abandoned. Then he wondered if he might not convey the tip to some
one who had access to his bedroom; his valet or a chambermaid who, as
though by accident, might stumble upon the will. But, as every one would
know the anonymous tipster could be only Blagwin himself, that plan also
was rejected. He saw himself in a blind alley. Without an accomplice he
could not act; with an accomplice his secret would be betrayed.
Suddenly a line in one of the newspapers returned to him. It was to the
effect that to discover the lost will several clairvoyants, mediums, and
crystal-gazers had offered their services. Jimmie determined that one of
these should be his accomplice. He would tell the clairvoyant he
formerly had been employed as valet by Blagwin and knew where Blagwin
had placed his will. But he had been discharged under circumstances that
made it necessary for him to lie low. He would hint it was the police he
feared. This would explain why he could not come forward, and why he
sought the aid of the clairvoyant. If the clairvoyant fell in with his
plan he would tell him where the will could be found, the clairvoyant
would pretend in a trance to discover the hiding-place, would confide
his discovery to Mrs. Blagwin's lawyer, the lawyer would find the will,
the clairvoyant would receive the reward, and an invaluable
advertisement. And Jimmie's ghost would rest in peace. He needed only a
clairvoyant who was not so upright that he fell over backward. Jimmie
assured himself one of that kind would not be difficult to find.
He returned to the newspaper-room of the library and in the advertising
columns of a Sunday paper found a clairvoyant who promised to be the man
He was an Indian prince, but for five dollars would tell fortunes, cast
horoscopes, and recover lost articles. Jimmie found him in the back room
on the first floor of an old-fashioned house of sandstone on a side
street. A blonde young woman, who was directing envelopes and enclosing
in them the business card of the prince, accepted Jimmie's five dollars
and ushered him into the presence. The back room was very dark. There
were no windows showing, and the walls were entirely hidden by curtains
in which twinkled tiny mirrors. The only light came from a lamp that
swung on chains.
The prince was young, tall, dark-skinned, with a black, pointed beard.
He wore his national costume and over it many necklaces of strange
stones, and of jewels more strange. He sat on a papier-mache throne with
gilded elephants for supports, and in his hand held a crystal globe. His
head was all but hidden in an enormous silken turban on which hung a
single pearl. Jimmie made up his mind that if the prince was no more on
the level than his jewels there would be no trouble.
Jimmie came quickly to the point.
"I can't show up," he explained, "because after I lost my job as Mr.
Blagwin's valet several articles of value were missing. But _you_ can
show up for me. If the will is not where I saw it--where I tell you it
is--you're no worse off than you are now. You can say the spirits misled
you. But, if I'm telling you the truth, you stand to get half the reward
and the biggest press story any ghost-raiser ever put across.
"And why," in conclusion Jimmie demanded, "should I ask you to do this,
if what I say is not true?"
The prince made no reply.
With a sweeping gesture he brought the crystal globe into his lap and,
bending his head, apparently peered into its depths. In reality he was
gaining time. To himself he was repeating Jimmie's question. If the
stranger were _not_ speaking the truth, why was he asking him to join in
a plot to deceive? The possibility that Jimmie _was_ telling the truth
the prince did not even consider. He was not used to the truth, and as
to the motives of Jimmie in inviting him to break the law he already had
made his guess. It was that Jimmie must be a detective setting a trap
which later would betray him to the police. And the prince had no desire
to fall in with the police nor to fall out with them. All he ever asked
of those gentlemen was to leave him alone. And, since apparently they
would not leave him alone, he saw, deep down in the crystal globe, a way
by which not only could he avoid their trap, but might spring it to his
Instead of the detective denouncing him, he would denounce the
detective. Of the police he would become an ally. He would call upon
them to arrest a man who was planning to blackmail Mrs. James Blagwin.
Unseen by Jimmie, in the arm of his throne he pressed an electric
button, and in the front room in the ear of the blonde a signal buzzed.
In her turn the blonde pushed aside the curtains that hid the door to
the front hall.
"Pardon, Highness," she said, "a certain party in Wall Street"--she
paused impressively, and the prince nodded--"wants to consult you about
his Standard Oil stock."
"He must wait," returned the prince.
"Pardon, Highness," persisted the lady; "he cannot wait. It is a matter
Of this dialogue, which was the vehicle always used to get the prince
out of the audience-chamber and into the front hall, undoubtedly the
best line was the one given to the blonde--"it is a matter of millions!"
Knowing this, she used to speak it slowly and impressively. It impressed
even Jimmie. And after the prince had reverently deposited his globe
upon a velvet cushion and disappeared, Jimmie sat wondering who in Wall
Street was rich enough to buy Standard Oil stock, and who was fool
enough to sell it.
But over such idle questions he was not long left to meditate. Something
more personal demanded his full attention. Behind him the prince
carefully had closed the door to the front hall. But, not having his
crystal globe with him, he did not know it had not remained closed, and
as he stood under the hall stairs and softly lifted the receiver from
the telephone, he was not aware that his voice carried to the room in
which Jimmie was waiting.
"Hello," whispered the prince softly. His voice, Jimmie noted with
approval, even over a public telephone was as gentle as a cooing dove.
"Hello! Give me Spring 3100."
A cold sweat swept down Jimmie's spine. A man might forget his birthday,
his middle name, his own telephone number, but not Spring 3100!
Every drama of the underworld, crook play, and detective story had
helped to make it famous.
Jimmie stood not upon the order of his going. Even while police
headquarters was telling the prince to get the Forty-seventh Street
police station, Jimmie had torn open the front door and was leaping down
Not until he reached Sixth Avenue, where if a man is seen running every
one takes a chance and yells "Stop thief!" did Jimmie draw a halt. Then
he burst forth indignantly.
"How was I to know he was honest!" he panted. "He's a hell of a
With indignation as great the prince was gazing at the blonde secretary;
his eyes were filled with amazement.
"Am I going dippy?" he demanded. "I sized him up for a detective--and he
was a perfectly honest crook! And in five minutes," he roared
remorsefully, "this house will be full of bulls! What am I to do? What
am I to tell 'em?"
"Tell 'em," said the blonde coldly, "you're going on a long journey."
Jimmie now appreciated that when he determined it was best he should
work without an accomplice he was most wise. He must work alone and,
lest the clairvoyant had set the police after him, at once. He decided
swiftly that that night he would return to his own house, and that he
would return as a burglar. From its hiding-place he would rescue the
missing will and restore it to the safe. By placing it among papers of
little importance he hoped to persuade those who already had searched
the safe that through their own carelessness it had been overlooked. The
next morning, when once more it was where the proper persons could find
it, he would again take ship for foreign parts. Jimmie recognized that
this was a desperate plan, but the situation was desperate.
And so midnight found him entering the grounds upon which he never again
had hoped to place his foot.
The conditions were in his favor. The night was warm, which meant
windows would be left open; few stars were shining, and as he tiptoed
across the lawn the trees and bushes wrapped him in shadows. Inside the
hedge, through which he had forced his way, he had left his shoes, and
he moved in silence. Except that stealing into the house where lay
asleep the wife he so dearly loved made a cruel assault upon his
feelings, the adventure presented no difficulties. Of ways of entering
his house Jimmie knew a dozen, and, once inside, from cellar to attic he
could move blindfolded. His bedroom, where was the copy of "Pickwick" in
which he had placed the will, was separated from his wife's bedroom by
her boudoir. The walls were thick; through them no ordinary sound could
penetrate, and, unless since his departure Jeanne had moved her maid or
some other chaperon into his bedroom, he could ransack it at his
leisure. The safe in which he would replace the will was in the
dining-room. From the sleeping-quarters of Preston, the butler, and the
other servants it was far removed.
Cautiously in the black shadows of the trees Jimmie reconnoitred. All
that was in evidence reassured him. The old farmhouse lay sunk in
slumber, and, though in the lower hall a lamp burned, Jimmie knew it was
lit only that, in case of fire or of an intruder like himself, it might
show the way to the telephone. For a moment a lace curtain fluttering at
an open window startled him, but in an instant he was reassured, and had
determined through that window to make his entrance. He stepped out of
the shadows toward the veranda, and at once something warm brushed his
leg, something moist touched his hand.
Huang Su, his black chow, was welcoming him home. In a sudden access of
fright and pleasure Jimmie dropped to his knees. He had not known he had
been so lonely. He smothered the black bear in his hands. Huang Su
withdrew hastily. The dignity of his breed forbade man-handling, and at
a safe distance he stretched himself nervously and yawned.
Jimmie stepped to the railing of the veranda, raised his foot to a cleat
of the awning, and swung himself sprawling upon the veranda roof. On
hands and knees across the shingles, still warm from the sun, he crept
to the open window. There for some minutes, while his eyes searched the
room, he remained motionless. When his eyes grew used to the
semidarkness he saw that the bed lay flat, that the door to the boudoir
was shut, that the room was empty. As he moved across it toward the
bookcase, his stockinged feet on the bare oak floor gave forth no
sound. He assured himself there was no occasion for alarm. But when,
with the electric torch with which he had prepared himself, he swept the
book-shelves, he suffered all the awful terrors of a thief.
His purpose was to restore a lost fortune; had he been intent on
stealing one he could not have felt more deeply guilty. At last the tiny
shaft of light fell upon the title of the "Pickwick Papers." With
shaking fingers Jimmie drew the book toward him. In his hands it fell
open, and before him lay "The Last Will and Testament of James Blagwin,
With an effort Jimmie choked a cry of delight. He had reason to feel
relief. In dragging the will from its hiding-place he had put behind him
the most difficult part of his adventure; the final ceremony of
replacing it in the safe was a matter only of minutes. With
self-satisfaction Jimmie smiled; in self-pity he sighed miserably. For,
when those same minutes had passed, again he would be an exile. As soon
as he had set his house in order, he must leave it, and once more upon
the earth become a wanderer and an outcast.
The knob of the door from the bedroom he grasped softly and, as he
turned it, firmly. Stealthily, with infinite patience and stepping close
to the wall, he descended the stairs, tiptoed across the hall, and
entered the living-room. On the lower floor he knew he was alone. No
longer, like Oliver Twist breaking into the scullery of Mr. Giles, need
he move in dreadful fear. But as a cautious general, even when he
advances, maps out his line of retreat, before approaching the safe
Jimmie prepared his escape. The only entrances to the dining-room were
through the living-room, in which he stood, and from the butler's
pantry. It was through the latter he determined to make his exit. He
crossed the dining-room, and in the pantry cautiously raised the window,
and on the floor below placed a chair. If while at work upon the safe he
were interrupted, to reach the lawn he had but to thrust back the door
to the pantry, leap to the chair, and through the open window fall upon
the grass. If his possible pursuers gave him time, he would retrieve his
shoes; if not, he would abandon them. They had not been made to his
order, but bought in the Sixth Avenue store where he was unknown, and
they had been delivered to a man named Henry Hull. If found, instead of
compromising him, they rather would help to prove the intruder was a
Having arranged his get-away, Jimmie returned to the living-room. In
defiance of caution and that he might carry with him a farewell picture
of the place where for years he had been so supremely happy, he swept it
with his torch.
The light fell upon Jeanne's writing-desk and there halted. Jimmie gave
a low gasp of pleasure and surprise. In the shaft of light, undisturbed
in their silver frames and in their place of honor, he saw three
photographs of himself. The tears came to his eyes. Then Jeanne had not
cast him utterly into outer darkness. She still remembered him kindly,
still held for him a feeling of good will. Jimmie sighed gratefully. The
sacrifice he had made for the happiness of Jeanne and Maddox now seemed
easier to bear. And that happiness must not be jeopardized.
More than ever before the fact that he, a dead man, must not be seen,
impressed him deeply. At the slightest sound, at even the suggestion of
an alarm, he must fly. The will might take care of itself. In case he
were interrupted, where he dropped it there must it lie. The fact of
supreme importance was that unrecognized he should escape.
The walls of the dining-room were covered with panels of oak, and built
into the jog of the fireplace and concealed by a movable panel was the
safe. In front of it Jimmie sank to his knees and pushed back the
panel. Propped upon a chair behind him, the electric torch threw its
shaft of light full upon the combination lock. On the floor, ready to
his hand, lay the will.
The combination was not difficult. It required two turns left, three
right, and in conjunction two numerals. While so intent upon his work
that he scarcely breathed, Jimmie spun the knob. Then he tugged gently,
and the steel door swung toward him.
At the same moment, from behind him, a metallic click gave an instant's
warning, and then the room was flooded with light.
From his knees, in one bound, Jimmie flung himself toward his avenue of
It was blocked by the bulky form of Preston, the butler.
Jimmie turned and doubled back to the door of the living-room. He found
himself confronted by his wife.
The sleeve of her night-dress had fallen to her shoulder and showed her
white arm extended toward him. In her hand, pointing, was an automatic
Already dead, Jimmie feared nothing but discovery.
The door to the living-room was wide enough for two. With his head down
he sprang toward it. There was a report that seemed to shake the walls,
and something like the blow of a nightstick knocked his leg from under
him and threw him on his back. The next instant Preston had landed with
both knees on his lower ribs and was squeezing his windpipe.
Jimmie felt he was drowning. Around him millions of stars danced. And
then from another world, in a howl of terror, the voice of Preston
screamed. The hands of the butler released their hold upon his throat.
As suddenly as he had thrown himself upon him he now recoiled.
"It's _'im!_" he shouted; "it's _'im!_"
"Him?" demanded Jeanne.
"_It's Mr. Blagwin!_"
Unlike Preston, Jeanne did not scream; nor did she faint. So greatly did
she desire to believe that "'im" was her husband, that he still was in
the same world with herself, that she did not ask how he had escaped
from the other world, or why, having escaped, he spent his time robbing
his own house.
Instead, much like Preston, she threw herself at him and in her young,
firm arms lifted him and held him close.
"Jimmie!" she cried, "_speak_ to me; _speak_ to me!"
The blow on the back of the head, the throttling by Preston, the
"stopping power" of the bullet, even though it passed only through his
leg, had left Jimmie somewhat confused. He knew only that it was a
dream. But wonderful as it was to dream that once more he was with
Jeanne, that she clung to him, needed and welcomed him, he could not
linger to enjoy the dream. He was dead. If not, he must escape. Honor
compelled it. He made a movement to rise, and fell back.
The voice of Preston, because he had choked his master, full of remorse,
and, because his mistress had shot him, full of reproach, rose in
"You've 'it 'im in the leg, ma'am!"
Jimmie heard Jeanne protest hysterically:
"That's nothing, he's _alive_!" she cried. "I'd hit him again if it
would only make him _speak_!" She pressed the bearded face against her
own. "Speak to me," she whispered; "tell me you forgive me. Tell me you
Jimmie opened his eyes and smiled at her.