Part 3 out of 3
assured her he at once would order an investigation.
"But, of course," he added, "it will be many months before our agents
can report. On the Amazon news travels very slowly."
In the eyes of his daughter the doubt still lingered.
"I am afraid," she said, "that that is true."
That was six months before the directors of the Brazil and Cuyaba Rubber
Company were summoned to meet their president at his rooms in the
Ritz-Carlton. They were due to arrive in half an hour, and while Senator
Barnes awaited their coming Barbara came to him. In her eyes was a light
that helped to tell the great news. It gave him a sharp, jealous pang.
He wanted at once to play a part in her happiness, to make her grateful
to him, not alone to this stranger who was taking her away. So fearful
was he that she would shut him out of her life that had she asked for
half his kingdom he would have parted with it.
"And besides giving my consent," said the rubber king, "for which no one
seems to have asked, what can I give my little girl to make her remember
her old father? Some diamonds to put on her head, or pearls to hang
around her neck, or does she want a vacant lot on Fifth Avenue?"
The lovely hands of Barbara rested upon his shoulders; her lovely face
was raised to his; her lovely eyes were appealing, and a little
"What would one of those things cost?" asked Barbara.
The question was eminently practical. It came within the scope of the
senator's understanding. After all, he was not to be cast into outer
darkness. His smile was complacent. He answered airily:
"Anything you like," he said; "a million dollars?"
The fingers closed upon his shoulders. The eyes, still frightened, still
searched his in appeal.
"Then, for my wedding-present," said the girl, "I want you to take that
million dollars and send an expedition to the Amazon. And I will choose
the men. Men unafraid; men not afraid of fever or sudden death; not
afraid to tell the truth--even to _you_. And all the world will know.
And they--I mean _you_--will set those people free!"
Senator Barnes received the directors with an embarrassment which he
concealed under a manner of just indignation.
"My mind is made up," he told them. "Existing conditions cannot
continue. And to that end, at my own expense, I am sending an expedition
across South America. It will investigate, punish, and establish
reforms. I suggest, on account of this damned heat, we do now adjourn."
That night, over on Long Island, Carroll told his wife all, or nearly
all. He did not tell her about the automatic pistol. And together on
tiptoe they crept to the nursery and looked down at their sleeping
children. When she rose from her knees the mother said: "But how can I
By "him" she meant the Young Man of Wall Street.
"You never can thank him," said Carroll; "that's the worst of it."
But after a long silence the mother said: "I will send him a photograph
of the children. Do you think he will understand?"
Down at Seabright, Hastings and his wife walked in the sunken garden.
The moon was so bright that the roses still held their color.
"I would like to thank him," said the young wife. She meant the Young
Man of Wall Street. "But for him we would have lost _this_."
Her eyes caressed the garden, the fruit-trees, the house with wide,
hospitable verandas. "To-morrow I will send him some of these roses,"
said the young wife. "Will he understand that they mean our home?"
At a scandalously late hour, in a scandalous spirit of independence,
Champ Thorne and Barbara were driving around Central Park in a taxicab.
"How strangely the Lord moves, his wonders to perform," misquoted
Barbara. "Had not the Young Man of Wall Street saved Mr. Hastings, Mr.
Hastings could not have raised your salary; you would not have asked me
to marry you, and had you not asked me to marry you, father would not
have given me a wedding-present, and--"
"And," said Champ, taking up the tale, "thousands of slaves would still
be buried in the jungles, hidden away from their wives and children and
the light of the sun and their fellow men. They still would be dying of
fever, starvation, tortures."
He took her hand in both of his and held her finger-tips against his
"And they will never know," he whispered, "when their freedom comes,
that they owe it all to _you_."
* * * * *
On Hunter's Island, Jimmie Reeder and his bunkie, Sam Sturges, each on
his canvas cot, tossed and twisted. The heat, the moonlight, and the
mosquitoes would not let them even think of sleep.
"That was bully," said Jimmie, "what you did to-day about saving that
dog. If it hadn't been for you he'd ha' drownded."
"He would _not_!" said Sammy with punctilious regard for the truth; "it
wasn't deep enough."
"Well, the scout-master ought to know," argued Jimmie; "he said it was
the best 'one good turn' of the day!"
Modestly Sam shifted the lime-light so that it fell upon his bunkie.
"I'll bet," he declared loyally, "_your_ 'one good turn' was a better
Jimmie yawned, and then laughed scornfully.
"Me!" he scoffed. "I didn't do nothing. I sent my sister to the movies."
When the voice over the telephone promised to name the man who killed
Hermann Banf, District Attorney Wharton was up-town lunching at
Delmonico's. This was contrary to his custom and a concession to
Hamilton Cutler, his distinguished brother-in-law. That gentleman was
interested in a State constabulary bill and had asked State Senator
Bissell to father it. He had suggested to the senator that, in the legal
points involved in the bill, his brother-in-law would undoubtedly be
charmed to advise him. So that morning, to talk it over, Bissell had
come from Albany and, as he was forced to return the same afternoon, had
asked Wharton to lunch with him up-town near the station.
That in public life there breathed a man with soul so dead who, were he
offered a chance to serve Hamilton Cutler, would not jump at the chance
was outside the experience of the county chairman. And in so judging his
fellow men, with the exception of one man, the senator was right. The
one man was Hamilton Cutler's brother-in-law. In the national affairs
of his party Hamilton Cutler was one of the four leaders. In two
cabinets he had held office. At a foreign court as an ambassador his
dinners, of which the diplomatic corps still spoke with emotion, had
upheld the dignity of ninety million Americans. He was rich. The history
of his family was the history of the State. When the Albany boats drew
abreast of the old Cutler mansion on the east bank of the Hudson the
passengers pointed at it with deference. Even when the search-lights
pointed at it, it was with deference. And on Fifth Avenue, as the
"Seeing New York" car passed his town house it slowed respectfully to
half speed. When, apparently for no other reason than that she was good
and beautiful, he had married the sister of a then unknown up-State
lawyer, every one felt Hamilton Cutler had made his first mistake. But,
like everything else into which he entered, for him matrimony also was a
success. The prettiest girl in Utica showed herself worthy of her
distinguished husband. She had given him children as beautiful as
herself; as what Washington calls "a cabinet lady" she had kept her name
out of the newspapers; as Madame l'Ambassatrice she had put
archduchesses at their ease; and after ten years she was an adoring
wife, a devoted mother, and a proud woman. Her pride was in believing
that for every joy she knew she was indebted entirely to her husband. To
owe everything to him, to feel that through him the blessings flowed,
was her ideal of happiness.
In this ideal her brother did not share. Her delight in a sense of
obligation left him quite cold. No one better than himself knew that his
rapid-fire rise in public favor was due to his own exertions, to the
fact that he had worked very hard, had been independent, had kept his
hands clean, and had worn no man's collar. Other people believed he owed
his advancement to his brother-in-law. He knew they believed that, and
it hurt him. When, at the annual dinner of the Amen Corner, they
burlesqued him as singing to "Ham" Cutler, "You made me what I am
to-day, I hope you're sat-isfied," he found that to laugh with the
others was something of an effort. His was a difficult position. He was
a party man; he had always worked inside the organization. The fact that
whenever he ran for an elective office the reformers indorsed him and
the best elements in the opposition parties voted for him did not shake
his loyalty to his own people. And to Hamilton Cutler, as one of his
party leaders, as one of the bosses of the "invisible government," he
was willing to defer. But while he could give allegiance to his party
leaders, and from them was willing to receive the rewards of office,
from a rich brother-in-law he was not at all willing to accept anything.
Still less was he willing that of the credit he deserved for years of
hard work for the party, of self-denial, and of efficient public service
the rich brother-in-law should rob him.
His pride was to be known as a self-made man, as the servant only of the
voters. And now that he had fought his way to one of the goals of his
ambition, now that he was district attorney of New York City, to have it
said that the office was the gift of his brother-in-law was bitter. But
he believed the injustice would soon end. In a month he was coming up
for re-election, and night and day was conducting a campaign that he
hoped would result in a personal victory so complete as to banish the
shadow of his brother-in-law. Were he re-elected by the majority on
which he counted, he would have the party leaders on their knees.
Hamilton Cutler would be forced to come to him. He would be in line for
promotion. He knew the leaders did not want to promote him, that they
considered him too inclined to kick over the traces; but were he now
re-elected, at the next election, either for mayor or governor, he
would be his party's obvious and legitimate candidate.
The re-election was not to be an easy victory. Outside his own party, to
prevent his succeeding himself as district attorney, Tammany Hall was
using every weapon in her armory. The commissioner of police was a
Tammany man, and in the public prints Wharton had repeatedly declared
that Banf, his star witness against the police, had been killed by the
police, and that they had prevented the discovery of his murderer. For
this the wigwam wanted his scalp, and to get it had raked his public and
private life, had used threats and bribes, and with women had tried to
trap him into a scandal. But "Big Tim" Meehan, the lieutenant the Hall
had detailed to destroy Wharton, had reported back that for their
purpose his record was useless, that bribes and threats only flattered
him, and that the traps set for him he had smilingly side-stepped. This
was the situation a month before election day when, to oblige his
brother-in-law, Wharton was up-town at Delmonico's lunching with Senator
Down-town at the office, Rumson, the assistant district attorney, was on
his way to lunch when the telephone-girl halted him. Her voice was
lowered and betrayed almost human interest.
From the corner of her mouth she whispered:
"This man has a note for Mr. Wharton--says if he don't get it quick
it'll be too late--says it will tell him who killed 'Heimie' Banf!"
The young man and the girl looked at each other and smiled. Their
experience had not tended to make them credulous. Had he lived, Hermann
Banf would have been, for Wharton, the star witness against a ring of
corrupt police officials. In consequence his murder was more than the
taking off of a shady and disreputable citizen. It was a blow struck at
the high office of the district attorney, at the grand jury, and the
law. But, so far, whoever struck the blow had escaped punishment, and
though for a month, ceaselessly, by night and day "the office" and the
police had sought him, he was still at large, still "unknown." There had
been hundreds of clews. They had been furnished by the detectives of the
city and county and of the private agencies, by amateurs, by newspapers,
by members of the underworld with a score to pay off or to gain favor.
But no clew had led anywhere. When, in hoarse whispers, the last one had
been confided to him by his detectives, Wharton had protested
"Stop bringing me clews!" he exclaimed. "I want the man. I can't
electrocute a clew!"
So when, after all other efforts, over the telephone a strange voice
offered to deliver the murderer, Rumson was sceptical. He motioned the
girl to switch to the desk telephone.
"Assistant District Attorney Rumson speaking," he said. "What can I do
Before the answer came, as though the speaker were choosing his words,
there was a pause. It lasted so long that Rumson exclaimed sharply:
"Hello," he called. "Do you want to speak to me, or do you want to speak
"I've gotta letter for the district attorney," said the voice. "I'm to
give it to nobody but him. It's about Banf. He must get it quick, or
it'll be too late."
"Who are you?" demanded Rumson. "Where are you speaking from?"
The man at the other end of the wire ignored the questions.
"Where'll Wharton be for the next twenty minutes?"
"If I tell you," parried Rumson, "will you bring the letter at once?"
The voice exclaimed indignantly:
"Bring nothing! I'll send it by district messenger. You're wasting time
trying to reach me. It's the _letter you_ want. It tells"--the voice
broke with an oath and instantly began again: "I can't talk over a
phone. I tell you, it's life or death. If you lose out, it's your own
fault. Where can I find Wharton?"
"At Delmonico's," answered Rumson. "He'll be there until two o'clock."
"Delmonico's! That's Forty-fort Street?"
"Right," said Rumson. "Tell the messenger--"
He heard the receiver slam upon the hook.
With the light of the hunter in his eyes, he turned to the girl.
"They can laugh," he cried, "but I believe we've hooked something. I'm
going after it."
In the waiting-room he found the detectives.
"Hewitt," he ordered, "take the subway and whip up to Delmonico's. Talk
to the taxi-starter till a messenger-boy brings a letter for the D.A.
Let the boy deliver the note, and then trail him till he reports to the
man he got it from. Bring the man here. If it's a district messenger and
he doesn't report, but goes straight back to the office, find out who
gave him the note; get his description. Then meet me at Delmonico's."
Rumson called up that restaurant and had Wharton come to the phone. He
asked his chief to wait until a letter he believed to be of great
importance was delivered to him. He explained, but, of necessity,
"It sounds to me," commented his chief, "like a plot of yours to get a
"Invitation!" cried Rumson. "I'll be with you in ten minutes."
After Rumson had joined Wharton and Bissell the note arrived. It was
brought to the restaurant by a messenger-boy, who said that in answer to
a call from a saloon on Sixth Avenue he had received it from a young man
in ready-to-wear clothes and a green hat. When Hewitt, the detective,
asked what the young man looked like, the boy said he looked like a
young man in ready-to-wear clothes and a green hat. But when the note
was read the identity of the man who delivered it ceased to be of
importance. The paper on which it was written was without stamped
address or monogram, and carried with it the mixed odors of the
drug-store at which it had been purchased. The handwriting was that of a
woman, and what she had written was: "If the district attorney will come
at once, and alone, to Kessler's Cafe, on the Boston Post Road, near the
city line, he will be told who killed Hermann Banf. If he don't come in
an hour, it will be too late. If he brings anybody with him, he won't
be told anything. Leave your car in the road and walk up the drive. Ida
Hewitt, who had sent away the messenger-boy and had been called in to
give expert advice, was enthusiastic.
"Mr. District Attorney," he cried, "that's no crank letter. This Earle
woman is wise. You got to take her as a serious proposition. She
wouldn't make that play if she couldn't get away with it."
"Who is she?" asked Wharton.
To the police, the detective assured them, Ida Earle had been known for
years. When she was young she had been under the protection of a man
high in the ranks of Tammany, and, in consequence, with her different
ventures the police had never interfered. She now was proprietress of
the road-house in the note described as Kessler's Cafe. It was a place
for joy-riders. There was a cabaret, a hall for public dancing, and
rooms for very private suppers.
In so far as it welcomed only those who could spend money it was
exclusive, but in all other respects its reputation was of the worst. In
situation it was lonely, and from other houses separated by a quarter of
a mile of dying trees and vacant lots.
The Boston Post Road upon which it faced was the old post road, but
lately, through this back yard and dumping-ground of the city, had been
relaid. It was patrolled only and infrequently by bicycle policemen.
"But this," continued the detective eagerly, "is where we win out. The
road-house is an old farmhouse built over, with the barns changed into
garages. They stand on the edge of a wood. It's about as big as a city
block. If we come in through the woods from the rear, the garages will
hide us. Nobody in the house can see us, but we won't be a hundred yards
away. You've only to blow a police whistle and we'll be with you."
"You mean I ought to go?" said Wharton.
Rumson exclaimed incredulously:
"You _got_ to go!"
"It looks to me," objected Bissell, "like a plot to get you there alone
and rap you on the head."
"Not with that note inviting him there," protested Hewitt, "and signed
by Earle herself."
"You don't know she signed it?" objected the senator.
"I know _her_," returned the detective. "I know she's no fool. It's her
place, and she wouldn't let them pull off any rough stuff there--not
against the D.A., anyway."
The D.A. was rereading the note.
"Might this be it?" he asked. "Suppose it's a trick to mix me up in a
scandal? You say the place is disreputable. Suppose they're planning to
compromise me just before election. They've tried it already several
"You've still got the note," persisted Hewitt. "It proves _why_ you went
there. And the senator, too. He can testify. And we won't be a hundred
yards away. And," he added grudgingly, "you have Nolan."
Nolan was the spoiled child of "the office." He was the district
attorney's pet. Although still young, he had scored as a detective and
as a driver of racing-cars. As Wharton's chauffeur he now doubled the
"What Nolan testified wouldn't be any help," said Wharton. "They would
say it was just a story he invented to save me."
"Then square yourself this way," urged Rumson. "Send a note now by hand
to Ham Cutler and one to your sister. Tell _them_ you're going to Ida
Earle's--and why--tell them you're afraid it's a frame-up, and for them
to keep your notes as evidence. And enclose the one from her."
Wharton nodded in approval, and, while he wrote, Rumson and the
detective planned how, without those inside the road-house being aware
of their presence, they might be near it.
Kessler's Cafe lay in the Seventy-ninth Police Precinct. In taxi-cabs
they arranged to start at once and proceed down White Plains Avenue,
which parallels the Boston Road, until they were on a line with
Kessler's, but from it hidden by the woods and the garages. A walk of a
quarter of a mile across lots and under cover of the trees would bring
them to within a hundred yards of the house.
Wharton was to give them a start of half an hour. That he might know
they were on watch, they agreed, after they dismissed the taxi-cabs, to
send one of them into the Boston Post Road past the road-house. When it
was directly in front of the cafe, the chauffeur would throw away into
the road an empty cigarette-case.
From the cigar-stand they selected a cigarette box of a startling
yellow. At half a mile it was conspicuous.
"When you see this in the road," explained Rumson, "you'll know we're on
the job. And after you're inside, if you need us, you've only to go to a
rear window and wave."
"If they mean to do him up," growled Bissell, "he won't get to a rear
"He can always tell them we're outside," said Rumson--"and they are
extremely likely to believe him. Do you want a gun?"
"No," said the D.A.
"Better have mine," urged Hewitt.
"I have my own," explained the D.A.
Rumson and Hewitt set off in taxi-cabs and, a half-hour later, Wharton
followed. As he sank back against the cushions of the big touring-car he
felt a pleasing thrill of excitement, and as he passed the traffic
police, and they saluted mechanically, he smiled. Had they guessed his
errand their interest in his progress would have been less perfunctory.
In half an hour he might know that the police killed Banf; in half an
hour he himself might walk into a trap they had, in turn, staged for
him. As the car ran swiftly through the clean October air, and the wind
and sun alternately chilled and warmed his blood, Wharton considered
He could not believe the woman Earle would lend herself to any plot to
do him bodily harm. She was a responsible person. In her own world she
was as important a figure as was the district attorney in his. Her
allies were the men "higher up" in Tammany and the police of the upper
ranks of the uniformed force. And of the higher office of the district
attorney she possessed an intimate and respectful knowledge. It was not
to be considered that against the prosecuting attorney such a woman
would wage war. So the thought that upon his person any assault was
meditated Wharton dismissed as unintelligent. That it was upon his
reputation the attack was planned seemed much more probable. But that
contingency he had foreseen and so, he believed, forestalled. There then
remained only the possibility that the offer in the letter was genuine.
It seemed quite too good to be true. For, as he asked himself, on the
very eve of an election, why should Tammany, or a friend of Tammany,
place in his possession the information that to the Tammany candidate
would bring inevitable defeat. He felt that the way they were playing
into his hands was too open, too generous. If their object was to lead
him into a trap, of all baits they might use the promise to tell him who
killed Banf was the one certain to attract him. It made their invitation
to walk into the parlor almost too obvious. But were the offer not
genuine, there was a condition attached to it that puzzled him. It was
not the condition that stipulated he should come alone. His experience
had taught him many will confess, or betray, to the district attorney
who, to a deputy, will tell nothing. The condition that puzzled him was
the one that insisted he should come at once or it would be "too late."
Why was haste so imperative? Why, if he delayed, would he be "too late"?
Was the man he sought about to escape from his jurisdiction, was he
dying, and was it his wish to make a death-bed confession; or was he so
reluctant to speak that delay might cause him to reconsider and remain
With these questions in his mind, the minutes quickly passed, and it was
with a thrill of excitement Wharton saw that Nolan had left the
Zoological Gardens on the right and turned into the Boston Road. It had
but lately been completed and to Wharton was unfamiliar. On either side
of the unscarred roadway still lay scattered the uprooted trees and
bowlders that had blocked its progress, and abandoned by the contractors
were empty tar-barrels, cement-sacks, tool-sheds, and forges. Nor was
the surrounding landscape less raw and unlovely. Toward the Sound
stretched vacant lots covered with ash heaps; to the left a few old and
broken houses set among the glass-covered cold frames of truck-farms.
The district attorney felt a sudden twinge of loneliness. And when an
automobile sign told him he was "10 miles from Columbus Circle," he felt
that from the New York he knew he was much farther. Two miles up the
road his car overhauled a bicycle policeman, and Wharton halted him.
"Is there a road-house called Kessler's beyond here?" he asked.
"On the left, farther up," the officer told him, and added: "You can't
miss it, Mr. Wharton; there's no other house near it."
"You know me," said the D.A. "Then you'll understand what I want you to
do. I've agreed to go to that house alone. If they see you pass they may
think I'm not playing fair. So stop here."
The man nodded and dismounted.
"But," added the district attorney, as the car started forward again,
"if you hear shots, I don't care how fast you come."
The officer grinned.
"Better let me trail along now," he called; "that's a tough joint."
But Wharton motioned him back; and when again he turned to look the man
still stood where they had parted.
Two minutes later an empty taxi-cab came swiftly toward him and, as it
passed, the driver lifted his hand from the wheel and with his thumb
motioned behind him.
"That's one of the men," said Nolan, "that started with Mr. Rumson and
Hewitt from Delmonico's."
Wharton nodded; and, now assured that in their plan there had been no
hitch, smiled with satisfaction. A moment later, when ahead of them on
the asphalt road Nolan pointed out a spot of yellow, he recognized the
signal and knew that within call were friends.
The yellow ciagarette-box lay directly in front of a long wooden
building of two stories. It was linked to the road by a curving driveway
marked on either side by whitewashed stones. On verandas enclosed in
glass Wharton saw white-covered tables under red candle-shades and,
protruding from one end of the house and hung with electric lights in
paper lanterns, a pavilion for dancing. In the rear of the house stood
sheds and a thick tangle of trees on which the autumn leaves showed
yellow. Painted fingers and arrows pointing, and an electric sign,
proclaimed to all who passed that this was Kessler's. In spite of its
reputation, the house wore the aspect of the commonplace. In evidence
nothing flaunted, nothing threatened. From a dozen other inns along the
Pelham Parkway and the Boston Post Road it was in no way to be
As directed in the note, Wharton left the car in the road. "For five
minutes stay where you are," he ordered Nolan; "then go to the bar and
get a drink. Don't talk to any one or they'll think you're trying to get
information. Work around to the back of the house. Stand where I can see
you from the window. I may want you to carry a message to Mr. Rumson."
On foot Wharton walked up the curving driveway, and if from the house
his approach was spied upon, there was no evidence. In the second story
the blinds were drawn and on the first floor the verandas were empty.
Nor, not even after he had mounted to the veranda and stepped inside the
house, was there any sign that his visit was expected. He stood in a
hall, and in front of him rose a broad flight of stairs that he guessed
led to the private supper-rooms. On his left was the restaurant.
Swept and garnished after the revels of the night previous, and as
though resting in preparation for those to come, it wore an air of
peaceful inactivity. At a table a maitre d'hotel was composing the menu
for the evening, against the walls three colored waiters lounged
sleepily, and on a platform at a piano a pale youth with drugged eyes
was with one hand picking an accompaniment. As Wharton paused
uncertainly the young man, disdaining his audience, in a shrill, nasal
tenor raised his voice and sang:
"And from the time the rooster calls
I'll wear my overalls,
And you, a simple gingham gown.
So, if you're strong for a shower of rice,
We two could make a paradise
Of any One-Horse Town."
At sight of Wharton the head waiter reluctantly detached himself from
his menu and rose. But before he could greet the visitor, Wharton heard
his name spoken and, looking up, saw a woman descending the stairs. It
was apparent that when young she had been beautiful, and, in spite of an
expression in her eyes of hardness and distrust, which seemed habitual,
she was still handsome. She was without a hat and wearing a house dress
of decorous shades and in the extreme of fashion. Her black hair, built
up in artificial waves, was heavy with brilliantine; her hands, covered
deep with rings, and of an unnatural white, showed the most fastidious
care. But her complexion was her own; and her skin, free from paint and
powder, glowed with that healthy pink that is supposed to be the
perquisite only of the simple life and a conscience undisturbed.
"I am Mrs. Earle," said the woman. "I wrote you that note. Will you
please come this way?"
That she did not suppose he might not come that way was obvious, for, as
she spoke, she turned her back on him and mounted the stairs. After an
instant of hesitation, Wharton followed.
As well as his mind, his body was now acutely alive and vigilant. Both
physically and mentally he moved on tiptoe. For whatever surprise, for
whatever ambush might lie in wait, he was prepared. At the top of the
stairs he found a wide hall along which on both sides were many doors.
The one directly facing the stairs stood open. At one side of this the
woman halted and with a gesture of the jewelled fingers invited him to
"My sitting-room," she said. As Wharton remained motionless she
substituted: "My office."
Peering into the room, Wharton found it suited to both titles. He saw
comfortable chairs, vases filled with autumn leaves, in silver frames
photographs, and between two open windows a businesslike roller-top desk
on which was a hand telephone. In plain sight through the windows he
beheld the garage and behind it the tops of trees. To summon Rumson, to
keep in touch with Nolan, he need only step to one of these windows and
beckon. The strategic position of the room appealed, and with a bow of
the head he passed in front of his hostess and entered it. He continued
to take note of his surroundings.
He now saw that from the office in which he stood doors led to rooms
adjoining. These doors were shut, and he determined swiftly that before
the interview began he first must know what lay behind them. Mrs. Earle
had followed and, as she entered, closed the door.
"No!" said Wharton.
It was the first time he had spoken. For an instant the woman hesitated,
regarding him thoughtfully, and then without resentment pulled the door
open. She came toward him swiftly, and he was conscious of the rustle of
silk and the stirring of perfumes. At the open door she cast a frown of
disapproval and then, with her face close to his, spoke hurriedly in a
"A man brought a girl here to lunch," she said; "they've been here
before. The girl claims the man told her he was going to marry her. Last
night she found out he has a wife already, and she came here to-day
meaning to make trouble. She brought a gun. They were in the room at the
far end of the hall. George, the waiter, heard the two shots and ran
down here to get me. No one else heard. These rooms are fixed to keep
out noise, and the piano was going. We broke in and found them on the
floor. The man was shot through the shoulder, the girl through the body.
His story is that after she fired, in trying to get the gun from her,
she shot herself--by accident. That's right, I guess. But the girl says
they came here to die together--what the newspaper calls a 'suicide
pact'--because they couldn't marry, and that he first shot her,
intending to kill her and then himself. That's silly. She framed it to
get him. She missed him with the gun, so now she's trying to get him
with this murder charge. I know her. If she'd been sober she wouldn't
have shot him; she'd have blackmailed him. She's _that_ sort. I know
With an exclamation the district attorney broke in upon her. "And the
man," he demanded eagerly; "was it _he_ killed Banf?"
In amazement the woman stared. "Certainly _not_!" she said.
"Then what _has_ this to do with Banf?"
"Nothing!" Her tone was annoyed, reproachful. "That was only to bring
His disappointment was so keen that it threatened to exhibit itself in
anger. Recognizing this, before he spoke Wharton forced himself to
pause. Then he repeated her words quietly.
"Bring me here?" he asked. "Why?"
The woman exclaimed impatiently: "So you could beat the police to it,"
she whispered. "So you could _hush it up_!"
The surprised laugh of the man was quite real. It bore no resentment or
pose. He was genuinely amused. Then the dignity of his office, tricked
and insulted, demanded to be heard. He stared at her coldly; his
indignation was apparent.
"You have done extremely ill," he told her. "You know perfectly well you
had no right to bring me up here; to drag me into a row in your
road-house. 'Hush it up!'" he exclaimed hotly. This time his laugh was
contemptuous and threatening.
"I'll show you how I'll hush it up!" He moved quickly to the open
"Stop!" commanded the woman. "You can't do that!"
She ran to the door.
Again he was conscious of the rustle of silk, of the stirring of
He heard the key turn in the lock. It had come. It WAS a frame-up. There
would be a scandal. And to save himself from it they would force him to
"hush up" this other one. But, as to the outcome, in no way was he
concerned. Through the window, standing directly below it, he had seen
Nolan. In the sunlit yard the chauffeur, his cap on the back of his
head, his cigarette drooping from his lips, was tossing the remnants of
a sandwich to a circle of excited hens. He presented a picture of bored
indolence, of innocent preoccupation. It was almost _too_ well done.
Assured of a witness for the defense, he greeted the woman with a smile.
"Why can't I do it?" he taunted.
She ran close to him and laid her hands on his arm. Her eyes were fixed
steadily on his. "Because," she whispered, "the man who shot that
girl--is your brother-in-law, Ham Cutler!"
For what seemed a long time Wharton stood looking down into the eyes of
the woman, and the eyes never faltered. Later he recalled that in the
sudden silence many noises disturbed the lazy hush of the Indian-summer
afternoon: the rush of a motor-car on the Boston Road, the tinkle of
the piano and the voice of the youth with the drugged eyes singing, "And
you'll wear a simple gingham gown," from the yard below the cluck-cluck
of the chickens and the cooing of pigeons.
His first thought was of his sister and of her children, and of what
this bomb, hurled from the clouds, would mean to her. He thought of
Cutler, at the height of his power and usefulness, by this one
disreputable act dragged into the mire, of what disaster it might bring
to the party, to himself.
If, as the woman invited, he helped to "hush it up," and Tammany learned
the truth, it would make short work of him. It would say, for the
murderer of Banf he had one law and for the rich brother-in-law, who had
tried to kill the girl he deceived, another. But before he gave voice to
his thoughts he recognized them as springing only from panic. They were
of a part with the acts of men driven by sudden fear, and of which acts
in their sane moments they would be incapable.
The shock of the woman's words had unsettled his traditions. Not only
was he condemning a man unheard, but a man who, though he might dislike
him, he had for years, for his private virtues, trusted and admired.
The panic passed and with a confident smile he shook his head.
"I don't believe you," he said quietly.
The manner of the woman was equally calm, equally assured.
"Will you see her?" she asked.
"I'd rather see my brother-in-law," he answered.
The woman handed him a card.
"Doctor Muir took him to his private hospital," she said. "I loaned them
my car because it's a limousine. The address is on that card. But," she
added, "both your brother and Sammy--that's Sam Muir, the doctor--asked
you wouldn't use the telephone; they're afraid of a leak."
Apparently Wharton did not hear her. As though it were "Exhibit A,"
presented in evidence by the defense, he was studying the card she had
given him. He stuck it in his pocket.
"I'll go to him at once," he said.
To restrain or dissuade him, the woman made no sudden move. In level
tones she said: "Your brother-in-law asked especially that you wouldn't
do that until you'd fixed it with the girl. Your face is too well known.
He's afraid some one might find out where he is--and for a day or two no
one must know that."
"This doctor knows it," retorted Wharton.
The suggestion seemed to strike Mrs. Earle as humorous. For the first
time she laughed.
"Sammy!" she exclaimed. "He's a lobbygow of mine. He's worked for me for
years. I could send him up the river if I liked. He knows it." Her tone
was convincing. "They both asked," she continued evenly, "you should
keep off until the girl is out of the country, and fixed."
Wharton frowned thoughtfully.
And, observing this, the eyes of the woman showed that, so far, toward
the unfortunate incident the attitude of the district attorney was to
her most gratifying.
Wharton ceased frowning.
"How fixed?" he asked.
Mrs. Earle shrugged her shoulders.
"Cutler's idea is money," she said; "but, believe _me_, he's wrong. This
girl is a vampire. She'll only come back to you for more. She'll keep on
threatening to tell the wife, to tell the papers. The way to fix _her_
is to throw a scare into her. And there's only one man can do that;
there's only one man that can hush this thing up--that's you."
"When can I see her?" asked Wharton.
"Now," said the woman. "I'll bring her."
Wharton could not suppress an involuntary start.
"Here?" he exclaimed.
For the shade of a second Mrs. Earle exhibited the slightest evidence of
"My room's in a mess," she explained; "and she's not hurt so much as
Sammy said. He told her she was in bad just to keep her quiet until you
Mrs. Earle opened one of the doors leading from the room. "I won't be a
minute," she said. Quietly she closed the door behind her.
Upon her disappearance the manner of the district attorney underwent an
abrupt change. He ran softly to the door opposite the one through which
Mrs. Earle had passed, and pulled it open. But, if beyond it he expected
to find an audience of eavesdroppers, he was disappointed. The room was
empty--and bore no evidence of recent occupation. He closed the door,
and, from the roller-top desk, snatching a piece of paper, scribbled
upon it hastily. Wrapping the paper around a coin, and holding it
exposed to view, he showed himself at the window. Below him, to an
increasing circle of hens and pigeons, Nolan was still scattering
crumbs. Without withdrawing his gaze from them, the chauffeur nodded.
Wharton opened his hand and the note fell into the yard. Behind him he
heard the murmur of voices, the sobs of a woman in pain, and the rattle
of a doorknob. As from the window he turned quickly, he saw that toward
the spot where his note had fallen Nolan was tossing the last remnants
of his sandwich.
The girl who entered with Mrs. Earle, leaning on her and supported by
her, was tall and fair. Around her shoulders her blond hair hung in
disorder, and around her waist, under the kimono Mrs. Earle had thrown
about her, were wrapped many layers of bandages. The girl moved
unsteadily and sank into a chair.
In a hostile tone Mrs. Earle addressed her.
"Rose," she said, "this is the district attorney." To him she added:
"She calls herself Rose Gerard."
One hand the girl held close against her side, with the other she
brushed back the hair from her forehead. From half-closed eyes she
stared at Wharton defiantly.
"Well," she challenged, "what about it?"
Wharton seated himself in front of the roller-top desk.
"Are you strong enough to tell me?" he asked.
His tone was kind, and this the girl seemed to resent.
"Don't you worry," she sneered, "I'm strong enough. Strong enough to
tell _all_ I know--to you, and to the papers, and to a jury--until I get
justice." She clinched her free hand and feebly shook it at him.
"_That's_ what I'm going to get," she cried, her voice breaking
From behind the armchair in which the girl half-reclined Mrs. Earle
caught the eye of the district attorney and shrugged her shoulders.
"Just what _did_ happen?" asked Wharton.
Apparently with an effort the girl pulled herself together.
"I first met your brother-in-law--" she began.
Wharton interrupted quietly.
"Wait!" he said. "You are not talking to me as anybody's brother-in-law,
but as the district attorney."
The girl laughed vindictively.
"I don't wonder you're ashamed of him!" she jeered.
Again she began: "I first met Ham Cutler last May. He wanted to marry me
then. He told me he was not a married man."
As her story unfolded, Wharton did not again interrupt; and speaking
quickly, in abrupt, broken phrases, the girl brought her narrative to
the moment when, as she claimed, Cutler had attempted to kill her. At
this point a knock at the locked door caused both the girl and her
audience to start. Wharton looked at Mrs. Earle inquiringly, but she
shook her head, and with a look at him also of inquiry, and of suspicion
as well, opened the door.
With apologies her head waiter presented a letter.
"For Mr. Wharton," he explained, "from his chauffeur."
Wharton's annoyance at the interruption was most apparent. "What the
devil--" he began.
He read the note rapidly, and with a frown of irritation raised his eyes
to Mrs. Earle.
"He wants to go to New Rochelle for an inner tube," he said. "How long
would it take him to get there and back?"
The hard and distrustful expression upon the face of Mrs. Earle, which
was habitual, was now most strongly in evidence. Her eyes searched those
"Twenty minutes," she said.
"He can't go," snapped Wharton.
"Tell him," he directed the waiter, "to stay where he is. Tell him I
may want to go back to the office any minute." He turned eagerly to the
girl. "I'm sorry," he said. With impatience he crumpled the note into a
ball and glanced about him. At his feet was a waste-paper basket. Fixed
upon him he saw, while pretending not to see, the eyes of Mrs. Earle
burning with suspicion. If he destroyed the note, he knew suspicion
would become certainty. Without an instant of hesitation, carelessly he
tossed it intact into the waste-paper basket. Toward Rose Gerard he
swung the revolving chair.
"Go on, please," he commanded.
The girl had now reached the climax of her story, but the eyes of Mrs.
Earle betrayed the fact that her thoughts were elsewhere. With an
intense and hungry longing, they were concentrated upon her own
The voice of the girl in anger and defiance recalled Mrs. Earle to the
business of the moment.
"He tried to kill me," shouted Miss Rose. "And his shooting himself in
the shoulder was a bluff. _That's_ my story; that's the story I'm going
to tell the judge"--her voice soared shrilly--"that's the story that's
going to send your brother-in-law to Sing Sing!"
For the first time Mrs. Earle contributed to the general conversation.
"You talk like a fish," she said.
The girl turned upon her savagely.
"If he don't like the way I talk," she cried, "he can come across!"
Mrs. Earle exclaimed in horror. Virtuously her hands were raised in
"Like hell he will!" she said. "You can't pull that under my roof!"
Wharton looked disturbed.
"'Come across'?" he asked.
"Come across?" mimicked the girl. "Send me abroad and keep me there. And
I'll swear it was an accident. Twenty-five thousand, that's all I want.
Cutler told me he was going to make you governor. He can't make you
governor if he's in Sing Sing, can he? Ain't it worth twenty-five
thousand to you to be governor? Come on," she jeered, "kick in!"
With a grave but untroubled voice Wharton addressed Mrs. Earle.
"May I use your telephone?" he asked. He did not wait for her consent,
but from the desk lifted the hand telephone.
"Spring, three one hundred!" he said. He sat with his legs comfortably
crossed, the stand of the instrument balanced on his knee, his eyes
gazing meditatively at the yellow tree-tops.
If with apprehension both women started, if the girl thrust herself
forward, and by the hand of Mrs. Earle was dragged back, he did not
appear to know it.
"Police headquarters?" they heard him ask. "I want to speak to the
commissioner. This is the district attorney."
In the pause that followed, as though to torment her, the pain in her
side apparently returned, for the girl screamed sharply.
"Be still!" commanded the older woman. Breathless, across the top of the
armchair, she was leaning forward. Upon the man at the telephone her
eyes were fixed in fascination.
"Commissioner," said the district attorney, "this is Wharton speaking. A
woman has made a charge of attempted murder to me against my
brother-in-law, Hamilton Cutler. On account of our relationship, I want
YOU to make the arrest. If there were any slip, and he got away, it
might be said I arranged it. You will find him at the Winona apartments
on the Southern Boulevard, in the private hospital of a Doctor Samuel
Muir. Arrest them both. The girl who makes the charge is at Kessler's
Cafe, on the Boston Post Road, just inside the city line. Arrest her
too. She tried to blackmail me. I'll appear against her."
Wharton rose and addressed himself to Mrs. Earle.
"I'm sorry," he said, "but I had to do it. You might have known I could
not hush it up. I am the only man who can't hush it up. The people of
New York elected me to enforce the laws." Wharton's voice was raised to
a loud pitch. It seemed unnecessarily loud. It was almost as though he
were addressing another and more distant audience. "And," he continued,
his voice still soaring, "even if my own family suffer, even if I
suffer, even if I lose political promotion, those laws I will enforce!"
In the more conventional tone of every-day politeness, he added:
"May I speak to you outside, Mrs. Earle?"
But, as in silence that lady descended the stairs, the district attorney
seemed to have forgotten what it was he wished to say.
It was not until he had seen his chauffeur arouse himself from
apparently deep slumber and crank the car that he addressed her.
"That girl," he said, "had better go back to bed. My men are all around
this house and, until the police come, will detain her."
He shook the jewelled fingers of Mrs. Earle warmly. "I thank you," he
said; "I know you meant well. I know you wanted to help me, but"--he
shrugged his shoulders--"my duty!"
As he walked down the driveway to his car his shoulders continued to
But Mrs. Earle did not wait to observe this phenomenon. Rid of his
presence, she leaped, rather than ran, up the stairs and threw open the
door of her office.
As she entered, two men followed her. One was a young man who held in
his hand an open note-book, the other was Tim Meehan, of Tammany. The
latter greeted her with a shout.
"We heard everything he said!" he cried. His voice rose in torment. "An'
we can't use a word of it! He acted just like we'd oughta knowed he'd
act. He's HONEST! He's so damned honest he ain't human; he's a ----
Mrs. Earle did not heed him. On her knees she was tossing to the floor
the contents of the waste-paper basket. From them she snatched a piece
of crumpled paper.
"Shut up!" she shouted. "Listen! His chauffeur brought him this." In a
voice that quivered with indignation, that sobbed with anger, she read
"'As directed by your note from the window, I went to the booth and
called up Mrs. Cutler's house and got herself on the phone. Your
brother-in-law lunched at home to-day with her and the children and they
are now going to the Hippodrome.
"'Stop, look, and listen! Back of the bar I see two men in a room, but
they did not see me. One is Tim Meehan, the other is a stenographer. He
is taking notes. Each of them has on the ear-muffs of a dictagraph.
Looks like you'd better watch your step and not say nothing you don't
want Tammany to print.'" The voice of Mrs. Earle rose in a shrill
"Him--a gilded saint?" she screamed; "you big stiff! He knew he was
talking into a dictagraph all the time--and he double-crossed us!"