Part 4 out of 9
is? Well, when I'm ridin' in me private buzz wagon, Wowzer, youse
stick around an' mabbe I'll tell youse--an' mabbe I won't!"
"By God"--the Wowzer's voice rose in a scream--"youse hand over dat
"Youse go to--"
Red, lurid red, a stream of flame seemed to cut across Jimmie Dale's
line of vision, came the roar of a revolver shot--and like a madman
Jimmie Dale flung his body at the door. Rickety at best, it crashed
inward, half wrenched from its hinges, precipitating him inside. He
recovered himself and leaped forward. The room was swirling with
blue eddies of smoke; Dago Jim, hands flung up, still grasping
letter and pocketbook, pawed at the air--and plunged with a sagging
lurch face downward to the floor. There was a yell and an oath from
the Wowzer--the crack of another revolver shot, the hum of the
bullet past Jimmie Dale's ear, the scorch of the tongue flame in his
face, and he was upon the other.
Screeching profanity, the Wowzer grappled; and, for an instant, the
two men rocked, reeled, and swayed in each other's embrace; then,
both men losing their balance, they shot suddenly backward, the
Wowzer, undermost, striking his head against the table's edge--and
men, table, and lamp crashed downward in a heap to the floor.
It had been no more, at most, than a matter of seconds since Jimmie
Dale had hurled himself into the room; and now, with a gurgling
sigh, the Wowzer's arms, that had been wound around Jimmie Dale's
back and shoulders, relaxed, and, from the blow on his head the man,
lay back inert and stunned. And then it seemed to Jimmie Dale as
though pandemonium, unreality, and chaos at the touch of some
devil's hand reigned around him. It was dark--no, not dark--a spurt
of flame was leaping along the line of trickling oil from the broken
lamp on the floor. It threw into ghastly relief the sprawled form
of Dago Jim. Outside, from along the passageway, came a confused
jangle of commotion--whispering voices, shuffling feet, the swish of
Chinese garments. And the room itself began to spring into weird,
flickering shadows, that mounted and crept up the walls with the
There was not a second to lose before the room would be swarming
with that rush from the passageway--and there was still the letter,
the pocketbook! The table had fallen half over Dago Jim--Jimmie
Dale pushed it aside, tore the crushed letter and the pocketbook
from the man's hands--and felt, with a grim, horrible sort of
anxiety, for the other's heartbeat, for the verdict that meant life
or death to himself. There was no sign of life--the man was dead.
Jimmie Dale was on his feet now. A face, another, and another
showed in the doorway--the Wowzer was regaining his senses,
stumbling to his knees. There was one chance--just one--to take
those crowding figures by surprise. And with a yell of "Fire!"
Jimmie Dale sprang for the doorway.
They gave way before his rush, tumbling back in their surprise
against the opposite wall; and, turning, Jimmie Dale raced down the
passageway. Doors were opening everywhere now, forms were pushing
out into the semi-darkness--only to duck hastily back again, as
Jimmie Dale's automatic barked and spat a running fire of warning
ahead of him. And then, behind, the Wowzer's voice shrieked out:
"Soak him! Kill de guy! He's croaked Dago Jim! Put a hole in him,
Yells, a chorus of them, took up the refrain--then the rush of
following feet--and the passageway seemed to racket as though a
Gatling gun were in play with the fusillade of revolver shots. But
Jimmie Dale was at the opening now--and, like a base runner plunging
for the bag, he flung himself in a low dive through and into the
open cellar beyond. He was on his feet, over the boxes, and dashing
up the stairs in a second. The door above opened as he reached the
top--Jimmie Dale's right hand shot out with clubbed revolver--and
with a grunt Chang Foo went down before the blow and the headlong
rush. The next instant Jimmie Dale had sprung through the tea shop
and was out on the street.
A minute, two minutes more, and Chinatown would be in an uproar--
Chang Foo would see to that--and the Wowzer would prod him on. The
danger was far from over yet. And then, as he ran, Jimmie Dale gave
a little gasp of relief. Just ahead, drawn up at the curb, stood a
taxicab--waiting, probably, for a private slumming party. Jimmie
Dale put on a spurt, reached it, and wrenched the door open.
"Quick!" he flung at the startled chauffeur. "The nearest subway
station--there's a ten-spot in it for you! Quick man--QUICK! Here
A crowd of Chinese, pouring like angry hornets from Chang Foo's
shop, came yelling down the street--and the taxi took the corner on
two wheels--and Jimmie Dale, panting, choking for his breath like a
man spent, sank back against the cushions.
But five minutes later it was quite another Jimmie Dale, composed,
nonchalant, imperturbable, who entered an up-town subway train, and,
choosing a seat alone near the centre of the car, which at that hour
of night in the downtown district was almost deserted, took the
crushed letter from his pocket. For a moment he made no attempt to
read it, his dark eyes, now that he was free from observation, full
of troubled retrospect, fixed on the window at his side. It was not
a pleasant thought that it had cost a man his life, nor yet that
that life was also the price of his own freedom. True, if there
were two men in the city of New York whose crimes merited neither
sympathy nor mercy, those two men were the Wowzer and Dago Jim--but
yet, after all, it was a human life, and, even if his own had been
in the balance, thank God it had been through no act of his that
Dago Jim had gone out! The Wowzer, cute and cunning, had been quick
enough to say so to clear himself, but--Jimmie Dale smiled a little
now--neither the Wowzer, nor Chang Foo, nor Chinatown would ever be
in a position to recognise their uninvited guest!
Jimmie Dale's eyes shifted to the letter speculatively, gravely. It
seemed as though the night had already held a year of happenings,
and the night was not over yet--there was the letter! It had
already cost one life; was it to cost another--or what?
It began as it always did. He read it through once, in amazement; a
second time, with a flush of bitter anger creeping to his cheeks;
and a third time, curiously memorising, as it were, snatches of it
here and there.
"DEAR PHILANTHROPIC CROOK: Robbery of Hudson-Mercantile National
Bank--trusted employee is ex-convict, bad police record, served term
in Sing Sing three years ago--known to police as Bookkeeper Bob,
real name is Robert Moyne, lives at ---- Street, Harlem--Inspector
Burton and Lannigan of headquarters trailing him now--robbery not
yet made public--"
There was a great deal more--four sheets of closely written data.
With an exclamation almost of dismay, Jimmie Dale pulled out his
watch. So that was what Burton and Lannigan were up to! And he had
actually run into them! Lord, the irony of it! The-- And then
Jimmie Dale stared at the dial of his watch incredulously. It was
still but barely midnight! It seemed impossible that since leaving
the theatre at a few minutes before eleven, he had lived through but
a single hour!
Jimmie Dale's fingers began to pluck at the letter, tearing it into
pieces, tearing the pieces over and over again into tiny shreds.
The train stopped at station after station, people got on and off--
Jimmie Dale's hat was over his eyes, and his eyes were glued again
to the window. Had Bookkeeper Bob returned to his flat in Harlem
with the detectives at his heels--or were Burton and Lannigan still
trailing the man downtown somewhere around the cafe's? If the
former, the theft of the letter and its incident loss of time had
been an irreparable disaster; if the latter--well, who knew! The
risk was the Gray Seal's!
At One Hundred and Twenty-Fifth Street Jimmie Dale left the train;
and, at the end of a sharp four minutes' walk, during which he had
dodged in and out from street to street, stopped on a corner to
survey the block ahead of him. It was a block devoted exclusively
to flats and apartment houses, and, apart from a few belated
pedestrians, was deserted. Jimmie Dale strolled leisurely down one
side, crossed the street at the end of the block, and strolled
leisurely back on the other side--there was no sign of either Burton
or Lannigan. It was a fairly safe presumption then that Bookkeeper
Bob had not returned yet, or one of the detectives at least would
have been shadowing the house.
Jimmie Dale, smiling a little grimly, retraced his steps again, and
turned deliberately into a doorway--whose number he had noted as he
had passed a moment or so before. So, after all, there was time
yet! This was the house. "Number eighteen," she had said in her
letter. "A flat--three stories--Moyne lives on ground floor."
Jimmie Dale leaned against the vestibule door--there was a faint
click--a little steel instrument was withdrawn from the lock--and
Jimmie Dale stepped into the hall, where a gas jet, turned down,
The door of the ground-floor apartment was at his right, Jimmie Dale
reached up and turned off the light. Again those slim, tapering,
wonderfully sensitive fingers worked with the little steel
instrument, this time in the lock of the apartment door--again there
was that almost inaudible click--and then cautiously, inch by inch,
the door opened under his hand. He peered inside--down a hallway
lighted, if it could be called lighted at all, by a subdued glow
from two open doors that gave upon it--peered intently, listening
intently, as he drew a black silk mask from his pocket and slipped
it over his face. And then, silent as a shadow in his movements,
the door left just ajar behind him, he stole down the carpeted
Opposite the first of the open doorways Jimmie Dale paused--a
curiously hard expression creeping over his face, his lips beginning
to droop ominously downward at the corners. It was a little sitting
room, cheaply but tastefully furnished, and a young woman,
Bookkeeper Bob's wife evidently, and evidently sitting up for her
husband, had fallen sound asleep in a chair, her head pillowed on
her arms that were outstretched across the table. For a moment
Jimmie Dale held there, his eyes on the scene--and the next moment,
his hand curved into a clenched fist, he had passed on and entered
the adjoining room.
It was a child's bedroom. A night lamp burned on a table beside the
bed, and the soft rays seemed to play and linger in caress on the
tousled golden hair of a little girl of perhaps two years of age--
and something seemed to choke suddenly in Jimmie Dale's throat--the
sweet, innocent little face, upturned to his, was smiling at him as
Jimmie Dale turned away his head--his eyelashes wet under his mask.
"BENEATH THE MATTRESS OF THE CHILD'S BED," the letter had said. His
face like stone, his lips a thin line now, Jimmie Dale's hand
reached deftly in without disturbing the child and took out a
package--and then another. He straightened up, a bundle of crisp
new hundred-dollar notes in each hand--and on the top of one,
slipped under the elastic band that held the bills together, an
unsealed envelope. He drew out the latter, and opened it--it was a
second-class steamship passage to Vera Cruz, made out in a
fictitious name, of course, to John Davies, the booking for next
day's sailing. From the ticket, from the stolen money, Jimmie
Dale's eyes lifted to rest again on the little golden head, the
smiling lips--and then, dropping the packages into his pockets, his
own lips moving queerly, he turned abruptly to the door.
"My God, the shame of it!" he whispered to himself.
He crept down the corridor, past the open door of the room where the
young woman still sat fast asleep, and, his mask in his pocket
again, stepped softly into the vestibule, and from there to the
Jimmie Dale hurried now, spurred on it seemed by a hot, insensate
fury that raged within him--there was still one other call to make
that night--still those remaining and minute details in the latter
part of her letter, grim and ugly in their portent!
It was close upon one o'clock in the morning when Jimmie Dale
stopped again--this time before a fashionable dwelling just off
Central Park. And here, for perhaps the space of a minute, he
surveyed the house from the sidewalk--watching, with a sort of
speculative satisfaction, a man's shadow that passed constantly to
and fro across the drawn blinds of one of the lower windows. The
rest of the house was in darkness.
"Yes," said Jimmie Dale, nodding his head, "I rather thought so.
The servants will have retired hours ago. It's safe enough."
He ran quickly up the steps and rang the bell. A door opened almost
instantly, sending a faint glow into the hall from the lighted room;
a hurried step crossed the hall--and the outer door was thrown back.
"Well, what is it?" demanded a voice brusquely.
It was quite dark, too dark for either to distinguish the other's
features--and Jimmie Dale's hat was drawn far down over his eyes.
"I want to see Mr. Thomas H. Carling, cashier of the Hudson-
Mercantile National Bank--it's very important," said Jimmie Dale
"I am Mr. Carling," replied the other. "What is it?"
Jimmie Dale leaned forward.
"From headquarters--with a report," he said, in a low tone.
"Ah!" exclaimed the bank official sharply. "Well, it's about time!
I've been waiting up for it--though I expected you would telephone
rather than this. Come in!"
"Thank you," said Jimmie Dale courteously--and stepped into the
The other closed the front door. "The servants are in bed, of
course," he explained, as he led the way toward the lighted room.
"This way, please."
Behind the other, across the hall, Jimmie Dale followed and close at
Carling's heels entered the room, which was fitted up, quite
evidently regardless of cost, as a combination library and study.
Carling, in a somewhat pompous fashion, walked straight ahead toward
the carved-mahogany flat-topped desk, and, as he reached it, waved
"Take a chair," he said, over his shoulder--and then, turning in the
act of dropping into his own chair, grasped suddenly at the edge of
the desk instead, and, with a low, startled cry, stared across the
Jimmie Dale was leaning back against the door that was closed now
behind him--and on Jimmie Dale's face was a black silk mask.
For an instant neither man spoke nor moved; then Carling, spare-
built, dapper in evening clothes, edged back from the desk and
laughed a little uncertainly.
"Quite neat! I compliment you! From headquarters with a report, I
think you said?"
"Which I neglected to add," said Jimmie Dale, "was to be made in
Carling, as though to put as much distance between them as possible,
continued to edge back across the room--but his small black eyes,
black now to the pupils themselves, never left Jimmie Dale's face.
"In private, eh?"--he seemed to be sparring for time, as he smiled.
"In private! You've a strange method of securing privacy, haven't
you? A bit melodramatic, isn't it? Perhaps you'll be good enough
to tell me who you are?"
Jimmie Dale smiled indulgently.
"My mask is only for effect," he said. "My name is--Smith."
"Yes," said Carling. "I am very stupid. Thank you. I--" he had
reached the other side of the room now--and with a quick, sudden
movement jerked his hand to the dial of the safe that stood against
But Jimmie Dale was quicker--without shifting his position, his
automatic, whipped from his pocket, held a disconcerting bead on
"Please don't do that," said Jimmie Dale softly. "It's rather a
good make, that safe. I dare say it would take me half an hour to
open it. I was rather curious to know whether it was locked or
Carling's hand dropped to his side.
"So!" he sneered. "That's it, is it! The ordinary variety of sneak
thief!" His voice was rising gradually. "Well, sir, let me tell
"Mr. Carling," said Jimmie Dale, in a low, even tone, unless you
moderate your voice some one in the house might hear you--I am quite
well aware of that. But if that happens, if any one enters this
room, if you make a move to touch a button, or in any other way
attempt to attract attention, I'll drop you where you stand!" His
hand, behind his back, extracted the key from the door lock, held it
up for the other to see, then dropped it into his pocket--and his
voice, cold before, rang peremptorily now. "Come back to the desk
and sit down in that chair!" he ordered.
For a moment Carling hesitated; then, with a half-muttered oath,
Jimmie Dale moved over, and stood in front of Carling on the other
side of the desk--and stared silently at the immaculate, fashionably
groomed figure before him.
Under the prolonged gaze, Carling's composure, in a measure at
least, seemed to forsake him. He began to drum nervously with his
fingers on the desk, and shift uneasily in his chair.
And then, from first one pocket and then the other, Jimmie Dale took
the two packages of banknotes, and, still with out a word, pushed
them across the desk until they lay under the other's eyes.
Carling's fingers stopped their drumming, slid to the desk edge,
tightened there, and a whiteness crept into his face. Then, with an
effort, he jerked himself erect in his chair.
"What's this?" he demanded hoarsely.
"About ten thousand dollars, I should say," said Jimmie Dale slowly.
"I haven't counted it. Your bank was robbed this evening at closing
time, I understand?"
"Yes!" Carling's voice was excited now, the colour back in his
face. "But you--how--do you mean that you are returning the money
to the bank?"
"Exactly," said Jimmie Dale.
Carling was once more the pompous bank official. He leaned back and
surveyed Jimmie Dale critically with his little black eyes.
"Ah, quite so!" he observed. "That accounts for the mask. But I am
still a little in the dark. Under the circumstances, it is quite
impossible that you should have stolen the money yourself, and--"
"I didn't," said Jimmie Dale. "I found it hidden in the home of one
of your employees."
"You found it--WHERE?"
"In Moyne's home--up in Harlem."
"Moyne, eh?" Carling was alert, quick now, jerking out his words.
"How did you come to get into this, then? His pal? Double-crossing
him, eh? I suppose you want a reward--we'll attend to that, of
course. You're wiser than you know, my man. That's what we
suspected. We've had the detectives trailing Moyne all evening."
He reached forward over the desk for the telephone. "I'll telephone
headquarters to make the arrest at once."
"Just a minute," interposed Jimmie Dale gravely. "I want you to
listen to a little story first."
"A story! What has a story got to do with this?" snapped Carling.
"The man has got a home," said Jimmie Dale softly. "A home, and a
wife--and a little baby girl."
"Oh, that's the game then, eh? You want to plead for him?" Carling
flung out gruffly. "Well, he should have thought of all that
before! It's quite useless for you to bring it up. The man has had
his chance already--a better chance than any one with his record
ever had before. We took him into the bank knowing that he was an
ex-convict, but believing that we could make an honest man of him--
and this is the result."
"NO!" said Carling icily.
"You refuse--absolutely?" Jimmie Dale's voice had a lingering,
wistful note in it.
"I refuse!" said Carling bluntly. "I won't have anything to do with
There was just an instant's silence; and then, with a strange, slow,
creeping motion, as a panther creeps when about to spring, Jimmie
Dale projected his body across the desk--far across it toward the
other. And the muscles of his jaw were quivering, his words
rasping, choked with the sweep of fury that, held back so long,
broke now in a passionate surge.
"And shall I tell you why you won't? Your bank was robbed to-night
of one hundred thousand dollars. There are ten thousand here. THE
OTHER NINETY THOUSAND ARE IN YOUR SAFE!"
"You lie!" Ashen to the lips, Carling had risen in his chair. "You
lie!" he cried. "Do you hear! You lie! I tell you, you lie!"
Jimmie Dale's lips parted ominously.
"Sit down!" he gritted between his teeth.
The white in Carling's face had turned to gray, his lips were
working--mechanically he sank down again in his chair.
Jimmie Dale still leaned over the desk, resting his weight on his
right elbow, the automatic in his right hand covering Carling.
"You cur!" whispered Jimmie Dale. "There's just one reason, only
one, that keeps me from putting a bullet through you while you sit
there. We'll get to that in a moment. There is that little story
first--shall I tell it to you now? For the past four years, and God
knows how many before that, you've gone the pace. The lavishness of
this bachelor establishment of yours is common talk in New York--far
in excess of a bank cashier's salary. But you were supposed to be a
wealthy man in your own right; and so, in reality you were--once.
But you went through your fortune two years ago. Counted a model
citizen, an upright man, an honour to the community--what were you,
Carling? What ARE you? Shall I tell you? Roue, gambler, leading a
double life of the fastest kind. You did it cleverly, Carling; hid
it well--but your game is up. To-night, for instance, you are at
the end of your tether, swamped with debts, exposure threatening you
at any moment. Why don't you tell me again that I lie--Carling?"
But now the man made no answer. He had sunk a little deeper in his
chair--a dawning look of terror in the eyes that held, fascinated,
on Jimmie Dale.
"You cur!" said Jimmie Dale again. "You cur, with your devil's
work! A year ago you saw this night coming--when you must have
money, or face ruin and exposure. You saw it then, a year ago, the
day that Moyne, concealing nothing of his prison record, applied
through friends for a position in the bank. Your co-officials were
opposed to his appointment, but you, do you remember how you pleaded
to give the man his chance--and in your hellish ingenuity saw your
way then out of the trap! An ex-convict from Sing Sing! It was
enough, wasn't it? What chance had he!" Jimmie Dale paused, his
left hand clenched until the skin formed whitish knobs over the
Carling's tongue sought his lips, made a circuit of them--and he
tried to speak, but his voice was an incoherent muttering.
"I'll not waste words," said Jimmie Dale, in his grim monotone.
"I'm not sure enough myself--that I could keep my hands off you much
longer. The actual details of how you stole the money to-day do not
matter--NOW. A little later perhaps in court--but not now. You
were the last to leave the bank, but before leaving you pretended to
discover the theft of a hundred thousand dollars--that, done up in a
paper parcel, was even then reposing in your desk. You brought the
parcel home, put it in that safe there--and notified the president
of the bank by telephone from here of the robbery, suggesting that
police headquarters be advised at once. He told you to go ahead and
act as you saw best. You notified the police, speciously directing
suspicion to--the ex-convict in the bank's employ. You knew Moyne
was dining out to-night, you knew where--and at a hint from you the
police took up the trail. A little later in the evening, you took
these two packages of banknotes from the rest, and with this
steamship ticket--which you obtained yesterday while out at lunch by
sending a district messenger boy with the money and instructions in
a sealed envelope to purchase for you--you went up to the Moynes'
flat in Harlem for the purpose of secreting them somewhere there.
You pretended to be much disappointed at finding Moyne out--you had
just come for a little social visit, to get better acquainted with
the home life of your employees! Mrs. Moyne was genuinely pleased
and grateful. She took you in to see their little girl, who was
already asleep in bed. She left you there for a moment to answer
the door--and you--you"--Jimmie Dale's voice choked again--"you blot
on God's earth, you slipped the money and ticket under the child's
Carling came forward with a lurch in his chair--and his hands went
out, pawing in a wild, pleading fashion over Jimmie Dale's arm.
Jimmie Dale flung him away.
"You were safe enough," he rasped on. "The police could only
construe your visit to Moyne's flat as zeal on behalf of the bank.
And it was safer, much more circumspect on your part, not to order
the flat searched at once, but only as a last resort, as it were,
after you had led the police to trail him all evening and still
remain without a clew--and besides, of course, not until you had
planted the evidence that was to damn him and wreck his life and
home! You were even generous in the amount you deprived yourself of
out of the hundred thousand dollars--for less would have been
enough. Caught with ten thousand dollars of the bank's money and a
steamship ticket made out in a fictitious name, it was prima-facie
evidence that he had done the job and had the balance somewhere.
What would his denials, his protestations of innocence count for?
He was an ex-convict, a hardened criminal caught red-handed with a
portion of the proceeds of robbery--he had succeeded in hiding the
remainder of it too cleverly, that was all."
Carling's face was ghastly. His hands went out again--again his
tongue moistened his dry lips. He whispered:
"Isn't--isn't there some--some way we can fix this?"
And then Jimmie Dale laughed--not pleasantly.
"Yes, there's a way, Carling," he said grimly. "That's why I'm
here." He picked up a sheet of writing paper and pushed it across
the desk--then a pen, which he dipped into the inkstand, and
extended to the other. "The way you'll fix it will be to write out
a confession exonerating Moyne."
Carling shrank back into his chair, his head huddling into his
"NO!" he cried. "I won't--I can't--my God!--I--I--WON'T!"
The automatic in Jimmie Dale's hand edged forward the fraction of an
"I have not used this--yet. You understand now why--don't you?" he
said under his breath.
"No, no!" Carling pushed away the pen. "I'm ruined--ruined as it
is. But this would mean the penitentiary, too--"
"Where you tried to send an innocent man in your place, you hound;
"Some other way--some other way!" Carling was babbling. "Let me
out of this--for God's sake, let me out of this!"
"Carling," said Jimmie Dale hoarsely, "I stood beside a little bed
to-night and looked at a baby girl--a little baby girl with golden
hair, who smiled as she slept."
Carling shivered, and passed a shaking hand across his face.
"Take this pen," said Jimmie Dale monotonously; "or--THIS!" The
automatic lifted until the muzzle was on a line with Carling's eyes.
Carling's hand reached out, still shaking, and took the pen; and his
body, dragged limply forward, hung over the desk. The pen
spluttered on the paper--a bead of sweat spurting from the man's
forehead dropped to the sheet.
There was silence in the room. A minute passed--another. Carling's
pen travelled haltingly across the paper then, with a queer, low cry
as he signed his name, he dropped the pen from his fingers, and,
rising unsteadily from his chair, stumbled away from the desk toward
a couch across the room.
An instant Jimmie Dale watched the other, then he picked up the
sheet of paper. It was a miserable document, miserably scrawled:
"I guess it's all up. I guess I knew it would be some day. Moyne
hadn't anything to do with it. I stole the money myself from the
bank to-night. I guess it's all up.
THOMAS H. CARLING."
From the paper, Jimmie Dale's eyes shifted to the figure by the
couch--and the paper fluttered suddenly from his fingers to the
desk. Carling was reeling, clutching at his throat--a small glass
vial rolled upon the carpet. And then, even as Jimmie Dale sprang
forward, the other pitched head long over the couch--and in a moment
it was over.
Presently Jimmie Dale picked up the vial--and dropped it back on the
floor again. There was no label on it, but it needed none--the
strong, penetrating odor of bitter almonds was telltale evidence
enough. It was prussic, or hydrocyanic acid, probably the most
deadly poison and the swiftest in its action that was known to
science--Carling had provided against that "some day" in his
For a little space, motionless, Jimmie Dale stood looking down at
the silent, outstretched form--then he walked slowly back to the
desk, and slowly, deliberately picked up the signed confession and
the steamship ticket. He held them an instant, staring at them,
then methodically began to tear them into little pieces, a strange,
tired smile hovering on his lips. The man was dead now--there would
be disgrace enough for some one to bear, a mother perhaps--who knew!
And there was another way now--since the man was dead.
Jimmie Dale put the pieces in his pocket, went to the safe, opened
it, and took out a parcel, locked the safe carefully, and carried
the parcel to the desk. He opened it there. Inside were nearly two
dozen little packages of hundred-dollar bills. The other two
packages that he had brought with him he added to the rest. From
his pocket he took out the thin metal insignia case, and with the
tiny tweezers lifted up one of the gray-coloured, diamond-shaped
paper seals. He moistened the adhesive side, and, still holding it
by the tweezers, dropped it on his handkerchief and pressed the seal
down on the face of the topmost package of banknotes. He tied the
parcel up then, and, picking up the pen, addressed it in printed
HUDSON-MERCANTILE NATIONAL BANK,
NEW YORK CITY.
"District messenger--some way--in the morning," he murmured.
Jimmie Dale slipped his mask into his pocket, and, with the parcel
under his arm, stepped to the door and unlocked it. He paused for
an instant on the threshold for a single, quick, comprehensive
glance around the room--then passed on out into the street.
At the corner he stopped to light a cigarette--and the flame of the
match spurting up disclosed a face that was worn and haggard. He
threw the match away, smiled a little wearily--and went on.
The Gray Seal had committed another "crime."
Choosing between the snowy napery, the sparkling glass and silver,
the cozy, shaded table-lamps, the famous French chef of the ultra-
exclusive St. James Club, his own home on Riverside Drive where a
dinner fit for an epicure and served by Jason, that most perfect of
butlers, awaited him, and Marlianne's, Jimmie Dale, driving in alone
in his touring car from an afternoon's golf, had chosen--
Marlianne's, if such a thing as Bohemianism, or, rather, a concrete
expression of it exists, was Bohemian. A two-piece string
orchestra played valiantly to the accompaniment of a hoarse-throated
piano; and between courses the diners took up the refrain--and, as
it was always between courses with some one, the place was a bedlam
of noisy riot. Nevertheless, it was Marlianne's--and Jimmie Dale
liked Marlianne's. He had dined there many times before, as he had
just dined in the person of Jimmie Dale, the millionaire, his high-
priced imported car at the curb of the shabby street outside--and he
had dined there, disreputable in attire, seedy in appearance, with
the police yelping at his heels, as Larry the Bat. In either
character Marlianne's had welcomed him with equal courtesy to its
spotted linen and most excellent table-d'hote with VIN ORDINAIRE--
for fifty cents.
And now, in the act of reaching into his pocket for the change to
pay his bill, Jimmie Dale seemed suddenly to experience some
difficulty in finding what he sought, and his fingers went fumbling
from one pocket to another. Two men at the table in front of him
were talking--their voices, over a momentary lull in violin squeaks,
talk, laughter, singing, and the clatter of dishes, reached him:
"Carling commit suicide! Not on your life! No; of course he
didn't! It was that cursed Gray Seal croaked him, just as sure as
you sit in that chair!"
The other grunted. "Yes; but what'd the Gray Seal want to pinch a
hundred thousand out of the bank for, and then give it back again
the next morning?"
"What's he done a hundred other things for to cover up the real
object of what he's after?" retorted the first speaker, with a
short, vicious laugh; then, with a thump of his fist on the table:
"The man's a devil, a fiend, and anywhere else but New York he'd
have been caught and sent to the chair where he belongs long ago,
A burst of ragtime drowned out the man's words. Jimmie Dale placed
a fifty-cent piece and a tip beside it on his dinner check, pushed
back his chair, and rose from the table. There was a half-
tolerantly satirical, half-angry glint in his dark, steady eyes. It
was not only the police who yelped at his heels, but every man,
woman, and child in the city. The man had not voiced his own
sentiments--he had voiced the sentiments of New York! And it was
quite on the cards that if he, Jimmie Dale, were ever caught his
destination would not even be the death cell and the chair at Sing
Sing--his fellow citizens had reached a pitch where they would be
quite capable of literally tearing him to pieces if they ever got
their hands on him!
And yet there were a few, a very few, a handful out of five
millions, who sometimes remembered perhaps to thank God that the
Gray Seal lived--that was his reward. That--and SHE, whose
mysterious letters prompted and impelled his, the Gray Seal's, acts!
She--nameless, fascinating in her brilliant resourcefulness, amazing
in her power, a woman whose life was bound up with his and yet held
apart from him in the most inexplicable, absorbing way; a woman he
had never seen, save for her gloved arm in the limousine that night,
who at one unexpected moment projected a dazzling, impersonal
existence across his path, and the next, leaving him battling for
his life where greed and passion and crime swirled about him, was
Jimmie Dale threaded the small, crowded rooms--the interior of
Marlianne's had never been altered from the days when the place had
been a family residence of some pretension--and, reaching the hall,
received his hat from the frowsy-looking boy in attendance. He
passed outside, and, at the top of the steps, paused as he took his
cigarette case from his pocket. It was nearly a week since Carling,
the cashier of the Hudson-Mercantile National Bank, had been found
dead in his home, a bottle that had contained hydrocyanic acid on
the floor beside him; nearly a week since Bookkeeper Bob, unaware
that he had ever been under temporary suspicion for the robbery of
the bank, had, equally unknown to himself, been cleared of any
complicity in that affair--and yet, as witness the conversation of a
moment ago, it was still the topic of New York, still the vital
issue that filled the maw of the newspapers with ravings, threats,
and execrations against the Gray Seal, snarling virulently the while
at the police for the latter's ineptitude, inefficiency, and
Jimmie Dale closed his cigarette case with a snap that was almost
human in its irony, dropped it back into his pocket, and lighted a
match--but the flame was arrested halfway to the tip of his
cigarette, as his eyes fixed suddenly and curiously on a woman's
form hurrying down the street. She had turned the corner before he
took his eyes from her, and the match between his fingers had gone
out. Not that there was anything very strange in a woman walking,
or even half running, along the street; nor that there was anything
particularly attractive or unusual about her, and if there had been
the street was too dark for him to have distinguished it. It was
not that--it was the fact that she had neither passed by the house
on whose steps he stood, nor come out of any of the adjoining
houses. It was as though she had suddenly and miraculously appeared
out of thin air, and taken form on a sidewalk a little way down from
"That's queer!" commented Jimmie Dale to himself. "However--" He
took out another match, lighted his cigarette, jerked the match stub
away from him, and, with a lift of his shoulders, went down the
He crossed the pavement, walked around the front of his machine,
since the steering wheel was on the side next to the curb, and, with
his hand out to open the car door--stopped. Some one had been
tampering with it--it was not quite closed. There was no mistake.
Jimmie Dale made no mistakes of that kind, a man whose life hung a
dozen times a day on little things could not afford to make them.
He had closed it firmly, even with a bang, when he had got out.
Instantly suspicious, he wrenched the door wide open, switched on
the light under the hood, and, with a sharp exclamation, bent
quickly forward. A glove, a woman's glove, a white glove lay on the
floor of the car. Jimmie Dale's pulse leaped suddenly into fierce,
pounding beats. It was HERS! He KNEW that intuitively--knew it as
he knew that he breathed. And that woman he had so leisurely
watched as she had disappeared from sight was, must have been--she!
He sprang from the car with a jump, his first impulse to dash after
her--and checked himself, laughing a little bitterly. It was too
late for that now--he had already let his chance slip through his
fingers. Around the corner was Sixth Avenue, surface cars, the
elevated, taxicabs, a multitude of people, any one of a hundred ways
in which she could, and would, already have discounted pursuit from
him--and, besides, he would not even have been able to recognise her
if he saw her!
Jimmie Dale's smile was mirthless as he turned back to the car, and
picked up the glove. Why had she dropped it there? It could not
have been intentional. Why had--he began to tear suddenly at the
glove's little finger, and in another second, kneeling on the car's
step, his shoulders inside, he was holding a ring close under the
little electric bulb.
It was a gold seal ring, a small, dainty thing that bore a crest: a
bell, surmounted by a bishop's mitre--the bell, quaint in design,
harking the imagination back to some old-time belfry tower. And
underneath, in the scroll--a motto. It was a full minute before
Jimmie Dale could decipher it, for the lettering was minute and the
words, of course, reversed. It was in French: SONNEZ LE TOCSIN.
He straightened up, the glove and ring in his hand, a puzzled
expression on his face. It was strange! Had she, after all,
dropped the glove there intentionally; had she at last let down the
barriers just a little between them, and given him this little
intimate sign that she--
And then Jimmie Dale laughed abruptly, self-mockingly. He was only
trying to deceive himself, to argue himself into believing what,
with heart and soul, he wanted to believe. It was not like her--and
neither was it so! His eyes had fixed on the seat beside the wheel.
He had not used the lap rug all that day, he couldn't use a rug and
drive, he had left it folded and hanging on the rack in the tonneau--
it was now neatly folded and reposing on the front seat!
"Yes," said Jimmie Dale, a sort of self-pity in his tones, "I might
He lifted the rug. Beneath it on the leather seat lay a white
envelope. Her letter! The letter that never came save with the
plan of some grim, desperate work outlined ahead--the call to arms
for the Gray Seal. SONNEZ LE TOCSIN! Ring the Tocsin! Sound the
alarm! The Tocsin! The words were running through his brain. A
strange motto on that crest--that seemed so strangely apt! The
Tocsin! Never once in all the times that he had heard from her,
never once in the years that had gone since that initial letter of
hers had struck its first warning note, had any communication from
her been but to sound again a new alarm--the Toscin! The Tocsin--
the word seemed to visualise her, to give her a concrete form and
being, to breathe her very personality.
"The Tocsin!"--Jimmie Dale whispered the word softly, a little
wistfully. "Yes; I shall call you that--the Tocsin!"
He folded the glove very carefully, placed it with the ring in his
pocketbook, picked up the letter--and, with a sharp exclamation,
turned it quickly over in his fingers, then bent hurriedly with it
to the light.
Strange things were happening that night! For the first time, the
letter was not even SEALED! That was not like her, either! What
did it mean? Quick, alert now, anxious even, he pulled the double,
folded sheets from the envelope, glanced rapidly through them--and,
after a moment, a smile, whimsical, came slowly to his lips.
It was quite plain now--all of it. The glove, the ring, and the
unsealed letter--and the postscript held the secret; or, rather,
what had been intended for a postscript did, for it comprised only a
few words, ending abruptly, unfinished: "Look in the cupboard at the
rear of the room. The man with the red wig is--" That was all, and
the words, written in ink, were badly blurred, as though the paper
had been hastily folded before the ink was dry.
It was quite plain; and, in view of the real explanation of it all,
eminently characteristic of her. With the letter already written,
she had come there, meaning to place it on the seat and cover it
with the rug, as, indeed, she had done; then, deciding to add the
postscript, and because she would attract less attention that way
than in any other, she had climbed into the car as though it
belonged to her, and had seated herself there to write it. She
would have been hurried in her movements, of course, and in pulling
off her glove to use the fountain pen the ring had come with it.
The rest was obvious. She had but just begun to write when he had
appeared on the steps. She had slipped instantly down to the floor
of the car, probably dropping the glove from her lap, hastily
inclosed the letter in the envelope which she had no time to seal,
thrust the envelope under the rug, and, forgetting her glove and
fearful of risking his attention by attempting to close the door
firmly, had stolen along the body of the car, only to be noticed by
him too late--when she was well down the street!
And at that latter thought, once more chagrin seized Jimmie Dale--
then he turned impulsively to the letter. All this was extraneous,
apart--for another time, when every moment was not a priceless asset
as it very probably was now.
"Dear Philanthropic Crook"--it always began that way, never any
other way. He read on more and more intently, crouched there close
to the light on the floor of his car, lips thinning as he proceeded--
read it to the end, absorbing, memorising it--and then the abortive
"Look in the cupboard at the rear of the room. The man with the red
For an instant, as mechanically he tore the letter into little
shreds, he held there hesitant--and the next, slamming the door
tight, he flung himself into the seat behind the wheel, and the big,
sixty-horse-power, self-starting machine was roaring down the
The Tocsin! There was a grim smile on Jimmie Dale's lips now. The
alarm! Yes, it was always an alarm, quick, sudden, an emergency to
face on the instant--plans, decisions to be made with no time to
ponder them, with only that one fact to consider, staggering enough
in itself, that a mistake meant disaster and ruin to some one else,
and to himself, if the courts were merciful where he had little hope
for mercy, the penitentiary for life!
And now to-night again, as it almost always was when these
mysterious letters came, every moment of inaction was piling up the
odds against him. And, too, the same problem confronted him. How,
in what way, in what role, must he play the night's game to its end?
As Larry the Bat?
The car was speeding forward. He was heading down Broadway now,
lower Broadway, that stretched before him, deserted like some dark,
narrow canyon where, far below, like towering walls, the buildings
closed together and seemed to converge into some black, impassable
barrier. The street lights flashed by him; a patrolman stopped the
swinging of his night-stick, and turned to gaze at the car that
rushed by at a rate perilously near to contempt of speed laws;
street cars passed at indifferent intervals; pedestrians were few
and far between--it was the lower Broadway of night.
Larry the Bat? Jimmie Dale shook his head impatiently over the
steering wheel. No; that would not do. It would be well enough for
this young Burton, perhaps, but not for old Isaac, the East Side
fence--for Isaac knew him in the character of Larry the Bat. His
quick, keen brain, weaving, eliminating, devising, scheming,
discarded that idea. The final coup of the night, as yet but sensed
in an indefinite, unshaped way, if enacted in the person of Larry
the Bat would therefore stamp Larry the Bat and the Gray Seal as
one--a contretemps but little less fatal, in view of old Issac, than
to bracket the Gray Seal and Jimmie Dale! Larry the Bat was not a
character to be assumed with impunity, nor one to jeopardize--it was
a bulwark of safety, at it were, to which more than once he owed
escape from capture and discovery.
He lifted his shoulders with a sudden jerk of decision as the car
swerved to the left and headed for the East Side. There was only
one alternative then--the black silk mask that folded into such tiny
compass, and that, together with an automatic and the curious, thin
metal case that looked so like a cigarette case, was always in his
pocket for an emergency!
The car turned again, and, approaching its destination, Jimmie Dale
slowed down the speed perceptibly. It was a strange case, not a
pleasant one--and the raw edges where they showed were ugly in their
nakedness. Old Isaac Pelina, young Burton, and Maddon--K.
Wilmington Maddon, the wall-paper magnate! Curious, that of the
three he should already know two--old Isaac and Maddon! Everybody in
the East Side, every denizen of the underworld, and many who posed
on a far higher plane knew old Isaac--fence to the most select
clientele of thieves in New York, unscrupulous, hand in glove with
any rascality or crime that promised profit, a money lender, a
Shylock without even a Shylock's humanity as a saving grace! Yes;
as Larry the Bat he knew old Isaac, and he knew him not only
personally but by firsthand reputation--he had heard the man cursed
in blasphemous, whole-souled abandon by more than one crook who was
in the old fence's toils. They dealt with him, the crooks, while
they swore to "get" him because he was "safe," but--Jimmie Dale's
lips parted in a mirthless smile--some day old Isaac would be found
in that spiders' den of his back of the dingy loan office with a
knife in his heart or a bullet through his head! And K. Wilmington
Maddon--Jimmie Dale's smile grew whimsical--he had known Maddon
quite intimately for years, had even dined with him at the St. James
Club only a few nights before. Maddon was a man in his own "set"--
and Maddon, interfered with, was likely to prove none too tractable
a customer to handle. And young Burton, the letter had said, was
Maddon's private and confidential secretary. Jimmie Dale's lips
thinned again. Well, Burton's acquaintance was still to be made!
It was a curious trio--and it was dirty work, more raw than cunning,
more devilish than ingenious; blackmail in its most hellish form;
the stake, at the least calculation, a cool half million. A heavy
price for a single slip in a man's life!
He brought the car abruptly to a halt at the edge of the curb, and
sprang out to the ground. He was in front of "The Budapest"
restaurant, a garish establishment, most popular of all resorts for
the moment on the East Side, where Fifth Avenue, in the fond belief
that it was seeing the real thing in "seamy" life, engaged its table
a week in advance. Jimmie Dale pushed a bill into the door
attendant's hand, accompanied by an injunction to keep an eye on the
machine, and entered the cafe.
But for a sort of tinselled ostentation the place might well have
been the Marlianne's that he had just left--it was crowded and riot
was at its height; a stringed orchestra in Hungarian costume played
what purported to be Hungarian airs; shouts, laughter, clatter of
dishes, and thump of steins added to the din. He made his way
between the close-packed tables to the stairs, and descended to the
lower floor. Here, if anything, the confusion was greater than
above; but here, too, was an exit through to the rear street--and a
moment later he was sauntering past the front of an unkempt little
pawnshop, closed for the night, over whose door, in the murk of a
distant street lamp, three balls hung in sagging disarray, tawny
with age, and across whose dirty, unwashed windows, letters missing,
ran the legend:
IS AC PELINA
Pawn brok r
The pawnshop made the corner of a very dark and narrow lane--and,
with a quick glance around him to assure himself that he was
unobserved, Jimmie Dale stepped into the alleyway, and, lost
instantly in the blacker shadows, stole along by the wall of the
pawnshop. Old Isaac's business was not all done through the front
And then suddenly Jimmie Dale shrank still closer against the wall.
Was it intuition, premonition--or reality? There seemed an uncanny
feeling of PRESENCE around him, as though perhaps he were watched,
as though others beside himself were in the lane. Yes; ahead of him
a shadow moved--he could just barely distinguish it now that his
eyes had grown accustomed to the darkness. It, like himself, was
close against the wall, and now it slunk noiselessly down the length
of the lane until he lost sight of it. AND WHAT WAS THAT? He
strained his ears to listen. It seemed like a window being opened
or closed, cautiously, stealthily, the fraction of an inch at a
time. And then he located the sound--it came from the other side of
the lane and very nearly opposite to where, on the second floor, a
dull, yellow glow shone out from old Isaac's private den in the rear
of the pawnshop's office.
Jimmie Dale's brows were gathered in sharp furrows. There was
evidently something afoot to-night of which the Tocsin had NOT
sounded the alarm. And then the frown relaxed, and he smiled a
little. Miraculous as was the means through which she obtained the
knowledge that was the basis of their strange partnership, it was no
more miraculous than her unerring accuracy in the minutest details.
The Tocsin had never failed him yet. It was possible that something
was afoot around him, quite probable, indeed, since he was in the
most vicious part of the city, in the heart of gangland; but
whatever it might be, it was certainly extraneous to his mission or
she would have mentioned it.
The lane was empty now, he was quite sure of that--and there was no
further sound from the window opposite. He started forward once
more--only to halt again for the second time as abruptly as before,
squeezing if possible even more closely against the wall. Some one
had turned into the lane from the sidewalk, and, walking hurriedly,
choosing with evident precaution the exact centre of the alleyway,
came toward him.
The man passed, his hurried stride a half run; and, a few feet
beyond, halted at old Isaac's side door. From somewhere inside the
old building Jimmie Dale's ears caught the faint ringing of an
electric bell; a long ring, followed in quick succession by three
short ones--then the repeated clicking of a latch, as though pulled
by a cord from above, and the man passed in through the door,
closing it behind him.
Jimmie Dale nodded to himself in the darkness. It was a spring
lock; the signal was one long ring and three short ones--the Tocsin
had not missed even those small details. Also, Burton was late for
his appointment, for that must have been Burton--business such as
old Isaac had in hand that night would have permitted the entrance
of no other visitor but K. Wilmington Maddon's private secretary.
He moved down the lane to the door, and tried it softly. It was
locked, of course. The slim, tapering, sensitive fingers, whose
tips were eyes and ears to Jimmie Dale, felt over the lock--and a
slender little steel instrument slipped into the keyhole. A moment
more and the catch was released, and the door, under his hand, began
to open. With it ajar, he paused, his eyes searching intently up
and down the lane. There was nothing, no sign of any one, no
moving shadows now. His gaze shifted to the window opposite.
Directly facing it now, with the dull reflection upon it from the
lighted window of old Isaac's den above his head, he could make out
that it was open--but that was all.
Once more he smiled--a little tolerantly at himself this time. Some
one had been in the lane; some one had opened the window of his or
her room in that tenement house across from him--surely there was
nothing surprising, unnatural, or even out of the commonplace in
that. He had been a little bit on edge himself, perhaps, and the
sudden movement of that shadow, unexpected, had startled him for the
moment, as, in all probability, the opening of the window had
startled the skulking figure itself into action.
The door was open now. He stepped noiselessly inside, and closed it
noiselessly behind him. He was in a narrow hall, where a few yards
away, a light shone down a stairway at right angles to the hall
"Rear door of pawnshop opens into hall, and exactly opposite very
short flight of stairs leading directly to doorway of Isaac's den
above. Ramshackle old place, low ceilings. Isaac, when sitting in
his den, can look down, and, by means of a transom over the rear
door of the shop, see the customers as they enter from the street,
while he also keeps an eye on his assistant. Latter always locks up
and leaves promptly at six o'clock--" Jimmie Dale was
subconsciously repeating to himself snatches from the Tocsin's
letter, which, as subconsciously in reading, he had memorised almost
word for word.
And now voices reached him--one, excited, nervous, as though the
speaker were labouring under mental strain that bordered closely on
the hysterical; the other, curiously mingling a querulousness with
an attempt to pacify, but dominantly contemptuous, sneering, cold.
Jimmie Dale moved along the hall--very slowly--without a sound--
testing each step before he threw his body weight from one leg to
the other. He reached the foot of the stairs. The Tocsin had been
right; it was a very short flight. He counted the steps--there were
eight. Above, facing him, a door was open. The voices were louder
now. It was a sordid-looking room, what he could see of it,
poverty-stricken in its appearance, intentionally so probably for
effect, with no attempt whatever at furnishing. He could see
through the doorway to the window that opened on the alleyway, or,
rather, just glimpse the top of the window at an angle across the
room--that and a bare stretch of floor. The two men were not in the
line of vision.
Burton's voice--it was unquestionably Burton speaking--came to
Jimmie Dale now distinctly.
"No, I didn't! I tell you, I didn't! I--I hadn't the nerve."
Jimmie Dale slipped his black silk mask over his face; and with
extreme caution, on hands and knees, began to climb the stairs.
"So!" It was old Isaac now, in a half purr, half sneer. "And I was
so sure, my young friend, that you had. I was so sure that you were
not such a fool. Yes; I could even have sworn that they were in
your pocket now--what? It is too bad--too bad! It is not a
pleasant thing to think of, that little chair up the river in its
horrible little room where--"
"For God's sake, Isaac--not that! Do you hear--not that! My God, I
didn't mean to--I didn't know what I was doing!"
Jimmie Dale crept up another step, another, and another. There was
silence for a moment in the room; then Burton again, hoarse-voiced:
"Isaac, I'll make good to you some other way. I swear I will--I
swear it! If I'm caught at this I'll--I'll get fifteen years for
"And which would you rather have?" Jimmie Dale could picture the
oily smirk, the shrug of his shoulders, the outthrust hands, palms
upward, elbows in at the hips, the fingers curved and wide apart--
"fifteen years, or what you get--for murder? Eh, my friend, you
have thought of that--eh? It is a very little price I ask--yes?"
"Damn you!" Burton's voice was shrill, then dropped to a half sob.
"No, no, Isaac, I didn't mean that. Only, for God's sake be
merciful! It is not only the risk of the penitentiary; it's more
than that. I--I tried to play white all my life, and until that
cursed night there's no man living could say I haven't. You know
that--you know that, Isaac. I tell you I couldn't do it this
afternoon--I tell you I couldn't. I tried to and--and I couldn't."
Jimmie Dale was lying flat on the little landing now, peering into
the room. Back a short distance from the doorway, a repulsive-
looking little man in unkempt clothes and soiled linen, with
yellowish-skinned, parchment face, out of which small black eyes
shone cunningly and shrewdly, sat at a bare deal table in a rickety
chair; facing him across the table stood a young man of not more
than twenty-five, clean cut, well dressed, but whose face was
unnaturally white now, and whose hand, as he extended it in a
pleading gesture toward the other, trembled visibly. Jimmie Dale's
hand made its way quietly to his side pocket and extracted his
Old Isaac humped his shoulders, and leered at his visitor.
"We talk a great deal, my young friend. What is the use? A bargain
is a bargain. A few rubies in exchange for your life. A few rubies
and my mouth is shut. Otherwise"--he humped his shoulders again.
Burton drew back, swept his hand in a dazed way across his eyes--and
laughed out suddenly in bitter mirth.
"A few rubies!" he cried. "The most magnificent stones on this side
of the water--a FEW rubies! It's been Maddon's life hobby. Every
child in New York knows that! A few--yes, there's only a few--but
those few are worth a fortune. He trusts me, the man has been like
a father to me, and--"
"So you are the very last to be suspected," observed old Isaac
suavely. "Have I not told you that? There is nothing to fear. Did
we not arrange everything so nicely--eh, my young friend? See, it
was to-night that Maddon gives a little reception to his friends,
and did you not say that the rubies would be taken from the safe-
deposit vault this afternoon since his friends always clamoured to
see them as a very fitting conclusion to an evening's entertainment?
And did you not say that you very naturally had access to the safe
in the library where you worked, and that he would not notice they
were gone until he came to look for them some time this evening? I
think you said all that. And what suspicion let alone proof, would
attach itself to you? You were out of the room once when he, too,
was absent for perhaps half an hour. It is very simple. In that
half hour, some one, somehow, abstracted them. Certainly it was not
you. You see how little I ask--and I pay well, do I not? And so I
gave you until to-night. Three days have gone, and I have said
nothing, and the body has not been found--eh? But to-night--eh--it
was understood! The rubies--or the chair."
Burton's lips moved, but it was a moment before he could speak.
"You wouldn't dare!" he whispered thickly. "You wouldn't dare! I'd
tell the story of--of what you tried to make me do, and they'd send
you up for it."
Old Isaac shrugged with pitying contempt.
"Is it, after all, a fool I am dealing with!" he sneered. "And I--
what should I say? That you had stolen the stones from your
employer and offered them as a bribe to silence me, and that I had
refused. The very act of handing you over to the police would prove
the truth of what I said and rob you of even a chance of leniency--
FOR THAT OTHER THING. Is it not so--eh? And why did I not hand you
over at once three nights ago? Believe me, my young friend, I
should have a very good reason ready, a dozen, if necessary, if it
came to that. But we are borrowing trouble, are we not? We shall
not come to that--eh?"
For a moment it seemed to Jimmie Dale, as he watched, that Burton
would hurl himself upon the other. White to the lips, the muscles
of his face twitching, Burton clenched his fists and leaned over the
table--and then, with sudden revulsion of emotion, he drew back once
more, and once more came that choked sob:
"You'll pay for this, Isaac--your turn will come for this!
"I have been threatened very often," snapped the other
contemptuously. "Bah, what are threats! I laugh at them--as I
always will." Then, with a quick change of front, his voice a
sudden snarl: "Well, we have talked enough. You have your choice.
The stones or--eh? And it is to-night--NOW!"
The old pawnbroker sprawled back in his chair, a cunning leer on his
vicious face, a gleam of triumph, greed, in the beady, ratlike eyes
that never wavered from the other. Burton, moisture oozing from his
forehead, stood there, hesitant, staring back at old Isaac, half in
a fascinated gaze, half as though trying to read some sign of
weakness in the bestial countenance that confronted him. And then,
very slowly, in an automatic, machine-like way, his hand groped into
the inside pocket of his vest--and old Isaac cackled out in
"So! You thought you could bluff me, eh--you thought you could fool
old Isaac! Bah! I read you like a book! Did I not tell you a while
back that you had them in your pocket? I know your kind, my young
friend; I know your kind very well indeed--it is my business. You
would not have dared to come here to-night without the price. So!
You took them this afternoon as we agreed. Yes, yes; you did well.
You will not regret it. And now let me see them"--his voice rose
eagerly--"let me see them now, my young friend."
"Yes, I took them." Burton spoke listlessly. "God help me!"
Old Isaac, quivering, excited, like a different creature now, sprang
from his chair, and, as Burton drew a long, flat, leather case from
his pocket, snatched it from the other's hand. His fingers in their
rapacious haste could not at first manipulate the catch, and then
finally, with the case open, he bent over the table feverishly. The
light reflected back as from some living mass of crimson fire, now
shading darkly, now glowing into wondrous, colourful transparency as
he moved the case to and fro with jerky motions of his hands--and he
was babbling, crooning to himself like one possessed.
"Ah, the little beauties! Ah, the pretty little things! Yes, yes;
these are the ones! This is the great Aracon--see, see, the six-
sided prism terminated by the six-sided pyramid. But it must be
cut--it must be cut to sell it, eh? Ah, it is too bad--too bad!
And this, this one here, I know them all, this is--"
But his sentence was never finished--it was Jimmie Dale, on his feet
now, leaning against the jamb of the door, his automatic covering
the two men at the table, who spoke.
"Quite so, Isaac," he said coolly; "you know them all! Quite so,
Isaac--but be good enough to DROP them!"
The case fell from Isaac's hand, the flush on his cheeks died to a
sickly pallor, and, his mouth half open, he stood like a man turned
to stone, his hands with curved fingers still outstretched over the
table, over the crimson gems that, spilled from the case, lay
scattered now on the tabletop. Burton neither spoke nor moved--a
little whiter, the misery in his face almost apathetic, he moistened
his lips with the tip of his tongue.
Jimmie Dale walked across the room, halted at the end of the table,
and surveyed the two men grimly. And then, while one hand with
revolver extended rested easily on the table, the other gathered up
the stones, placed them in the case, and, the case in his pocket,
Jimmie Dale's lips parted in an uninviting smile.
"I guess I'm in luck to-night, eh, Isaac?" he drawled. "Between you
and your young friend, as I believe you call him, it would appear as
though I had fallen on my feet. That Aracon's worth--what would you
say?--a hundred, two hundred thousand alone, eh? A very famous
stone, that--had your eye on it for quite a time, Isaac, you
miserable blood leech, eh?"
Isaac did not answer; but, while he still held back from the table,
he seemed to be regaining a little of his composure--burglars of
whatever sort were no novelty to him--and was staring fixedly at
"Can't place me--though there's not many in the profession you don't
know? Is that it?" inquired Jimmie Dale softly. "Well, don't try,
Isaac; it's hardly worth your while. I'VE got the stones now, and--"
"Wait! Wait! Listen!" It was Burton, speaking for the first time,
his words coming in a quick, nervous rush. "Listen! You don't--"
"Hold your tongue!" cried old Isaac, with sudden fierceness. "You
are a fool!" He leaned toward Jimmie Dale, a crafty smile on his
face, quite in control of himself once more. "Don't listen to him--
listen to me. You're right. I can't place you, and it doesn't make
any difference"--he took a step forward--"but--"
"Not too close, Isaac!" snapped Jimmie Dale sharply. "I know YOU!"
"So!" ejaculated old Isaac, rubbing his hands together. "So! That
is good! That is what I want. Listen, we will make a bargain. We
are birds of a feather, eh? All thieves, eh? You've got the drop
on us who did all the work, but you'll give us our share--eh?
Listen! You couldn't get rid of those stones alone. You know that;
you're not so green at the game, eh? You'd have to go to some one.
You know me; you know old Isaac, you say. Well, then, you know
there isn't another man in New York could dispose of those rubies
and play SAFE doing it except me. I'll make a good bargain with
"Isaac," said Jimmie Dale pensively, "you've made a good many 'good'
bargains. I wonder when you'll make your last! There's more than
one looking for 'interest' on those bargains in a pretty grim sort
"Bah!" ejaculated old Isaac. "It is an old story. They are all
alike. I am afraid of none of them. I hold them all like--THAT!"
His hand opened and closed like a taloned claw.
"And you'd add me to the lot, eh?" said Jimmie Dale. He lifted the
revolver, its muzzle on old Isaac, examined the mechanism
thoughfully, and lowered it again. "Very well, I'll make a bargain
with you--providing it is agreeable to your young friend here."
"Ah!" exclaimed old Isaac shrilly. "So! That is good! It is done
then." He chuckled hoarsely. "Any bargain I make he will agree to.
Is it not so?" He fixed his eyes on Burton. "Well, is it not so?
Speak up! Say--"
He stopped--the words cut short off on his lips. It came without
warning--a crash, a pound on the door below--another.
Burton shrank back against the wall.
"My God! The police!" he gasped. "Maddon's found out! We're--
Jimmie Dale's eyes, on old Isaac, narrowed. The pounding in the
alleyway grew louder, more insistent. And then his first suspicion
passed--it was no "game" of Isaac's. Crafty though the old fox was,
the other's surprise and agitation was too genuine to be questioned.
Still the pounding continued--some one was kicking viciously at the
door, and banging a tattoo on the panels with his fists.
Old Isaac's clawlike hands doubled suddenly.
"It is some drunken sot," he snarled out, "that knows no better than
to come here and rouse the whole neighbourhood! It is true, in a
moment we will have the police running in from the street. But
wait--wait--I'll teach the fool a lesson!" He dashed around the
table, ran for the window, wrenched the catch up, flung the window
open, and, snarling again, leaned out--and instantly the knocking
And instantly then, with a sharp cry, as the whole ghastly meaning
of it swept upon him, Jimmie sprang after the other--too late! Came
the roar of a revolver shot, a stream of flame cutting the darkness
of the alleyway from the window in the house opposite--and, without
a sound, old Isaac crumpled up, hung limply for a moment over the
sill, and slid in a heap to the floor.
On his hands and knees, protected from the possibility of another
bullet by the height of the sill, Jimmie Dale, quick in every
movement now, dragged the inert form toward the table away from the
window, and bent hurriedly over the other. A minute perhaps he
stayed there--and then rose slowly.
Burton, horror-stricken, unmanned, beside himself, was hanging,
clutching with both hands at the table edge.
"He's dead," said Jimmie Dale laconically.
Burton flung out his hands.
"Dead!" he whispered hoarsely. "I--I think I'm going mad. Three
days of hell--and now this. We'd--we'd better get out of here
quick--they'll get us if--"
Jimmie Dale's hand fell with a tight grip on Burton's shoulder.
"There won't be any more shots fired--pull yourself together!"
Burton stared at him in a demented way.
"What's--what's it mean?" he stammered.
"It means that I didn't put two and two together," said Jimmie Dale
a little bitterly. "It means that there's a dozen crooks been
dancing old Isaac's tune for a long time--and that some of them have
got him at last."
Burton reached out suddenly and clutched Jimmie Dale's arm.
"Then I'm safe!" He mumbled the words, but there was dawning hope,
relief in his white face. "Safe! I'm safe--if you'll only give me
back those stones. Give them back to me, for God's sake give them
back to me! You don't know--you don't understand. I stole them
because--because he made me--because I--it was the only chance I
had. Oh, my God, you don't know what the last three days have been!
Give them back to me, won't you--won't you? You--you don't know!"
"Don't lose your nerve!" said Jimmie Dale sharply. "Sit down!" He
pushed the other into the chair. "There's no one will disturb us
here for some time at least. What is it that I don't know? That
three nights ago you were in a gambling hell, Sagosto's, to be
exact, one of the most disreputable in New York--and you went there
on the invitation of a stray acquaintance, a man named Perley--shall
I describe him for you? A short, slim-built man, black eyes, red
hair, beard, and--"
"YOU know that!" The misery, the hopelessness was back in Burton's
face again--and suddenly he bent over the table and buried his head
in his outflung arms.
There was silence for a moment. Tight-lipped, Jimmie Dale's eyes
travelled from Burton's shaking shoulders to the motionless form on
the floor. Then he spoke again:
"You're a bit of a rounder, Burton, but I think you've had a lesson
that will last you all your life. You were half-drunk when you and
Perley began to hobnob over a downtown bar. He said he'd show you
some real life, and you went with him to Sagosto's. He gave you a
revolver before you went in, and told you the place wasn't safe for
an unarmed man. He introduced you to Sagosto, the proprietor, and
you were shown to a back room. You drank quite a little there. You
and Perley were alone, throwing dice. You got into a quarrel.
Perley tried to draw his revolver. You were quicker. You drew the
one he had given you--and fired. He fell to the floor--you saw the
blood gush from his breast just above the heart--he was dead. In a
panic you rushed from the place and out into the street. I don't
think you went home that night."
Burton raised his head, showing his haggard face.
"I guess it's no use," he said dully." If you know, others must. I
thought only Isaac and Sagosto knew. Why haven't I been arrested?
I wish to God I had--I wouldn't have had to-day to answer for."
"I am not through yet," said Jimmie Dale gravely. "The next day old
Isaac here sent for you. He said Sagosto had told him of the
murder, and had offered to dispose of the corpse and keep his mouth
shut for fifty thousand dollars--that no one in his place knew of it
except himself. Isaac, for his share, wanted considerably more.
You told him you had no such sums, that you had no money. He told
you how you could get it--you had access to Maddon's safe, you were
Maddon's confidential secretary, fully in your employer's trust, the
last man on earth to be suspected--and there were Maddon's famous,
Jimmie Dale paused. Burton made no answer.
"And so," said Jimmie Dale presently, "to save yourself from the
death penalty you took them."
"Yes," said Burton, scarcely above his breath. "Are you an officer?
If you are, take me, have done with it! Only for Heaven's sake end
it! If you're not--"
Jimmie Dale was not listening. "The cupboard at the rear of the
room," she had said. He walked across to it now, opened it, and,
after a little search, found a small bundle. He returned with it in
his hand, and, kneeling beside the dead man on the floor, his back
to Burton, untied it, took out a red wig and beard, and slipped them
on to old Isaac's head and face.
"I wonder," he said grimly, as he stood up, "if you ever saw this
"My God--PERLEY!" With a wild cry, Burton was on his feet,
straining forward like a man crazed.
"Yes," said Jimmie Dale, "Perley! Sort of an ironic justice in his
end as far as you are concerned, isn't there? I think we'll leave
him like that--as Perley. It will provide the police with an
interesting little problem--which they will never solve, and--
Burton was rocking on his feet, the tears were streaming down his
face. He lurched heavily--and Jimmie Dale caught him, and pushed
him back into the chair again.
I thought--I thought there was blood on my hands," said Burton
brokenly; "that--that I had taken a man's life. It was horrible,
horrible! I've lived through three days that I thought would drive
me mad, while I--I tried to do my work, and--and talk to people,
just as if nothing had happened. And every one that spoke to me
seemed so carefree and happy, and I would have sold my soul to have
changed places with them." He stared at the form on the floor, and
shivered suddenly. "It--it was like that I saw him last!" he
whispered. "But--but I do not understand."
Jimmie Dale smiled a little wearily.
"It was simple enough," he said. "Old Isaac had had his eyes on
those rubies for a long time. The easiest way of getting them was
through you. The revolver he gave you before you entered Sagosto's
was loaded with blank cartridges, the blood you saw was the old, old
trick--a punctured bladder of red pigment concealed under the vest."
"Let us get out of here!" Burton shuddered again. "Let us get out
of here--at once--now. If we're found here, we'll be accused of--
"There is no hurry," Jimmie Dale answered quietly. "I have told you
that no one is liable to come here to-night--and whoever did this
certainly will not raise an alarm. And besides, there is still the
matter of the rubies--Burton."
"Yes," said Burton, with a quick intake of his breath.
"Yes--the rubies--what are you going to do with them? I--I had
forgotten them. You'll--" He stopped, stared at Jimmie Dale, and
burst into a miserable laugh. "I'm a fool, a blind fool!" he
moaned. "It does not matter what you do with them. I forgot
Sagosto. When they find Isaac here, Sagosto will either tell his
story, which will be enough to convict me of this night's work, the
REAL murder, even though I'm innocent; or else he'll blackmail me
just as Isaac did."
Jimmie Dale shook his head.
"You are doing Isaac's cunning an injustice," he said grimly.
"Sagosto was only a tool, one of many that old Isaac had in his
power--and, for that matter, as likely as any one else to have had a
hand in Isaac's murder to-night. Sagosto saw you once when Isaac
brought you into his place--not because Isaac wanted Sagosto to see
you, but because he wanted YOU to see Sagosto. Do you understand?
It would make the story that Sagosto came to him with the tale of
the murder the next day ring true. Sagosto, however, did not go to
old Isaac the next day to tell about any fake murder--naturally.
Sagosto would not know you again from Adam--neither does he know
anything about the rubies, nor what old Isaac's ulterior motives
were. He was paid for his share in the game in old Isaac's usual
manner of payment probably--by a threat of exposure for some old-
time offence, that Isaac held over him, if he didn't keep his mouth
Burton's hand brushed his eyes.
"Yes," he muttered. "Yes--I see it now."
Jimmie Dale stooped down, picked up the paper from the floor in
which the wig and beard had been wrapped, walked back with it, and
replaced it in the cupboard. And then, with his back to Burton
again, he took the case of gems from his pocket, opened it, and laid
it on the cupboard shelf. Also from his pocket came that thin metal
case, and from the case, with a pair of tweezers that obviated the
possibility of telltale finger prints, a gray, diamond-shaped piece
of paper, adhesive on one side that, cursed by the distracted
authorities in every police headquarters on both sides of the
Atlantic, and raved at by a virulent press whose printed
reproductions had made it familiar in every household in the land--
was the insignia of the Gray Seal. He moistened the adhesive side,
dropped it from the tweezers to his handkerchief, and pressed it
down firmly on the inside of the cover of the jewel case. He put
both cases back in his pockets, and returned to Burton.
"Burton," he said a little sharply, "while I was outside that
doorway there, I heard you beg old Isaac to let you keep the rubies,
and three times already you have asked the same of me. What would
you do with them if I gave them back to you?"
Burton did not reply for a moment--he was gazing at the masked face
in a half-eager, half-doubtful way.
"You--you mean you will give them back!" he burst out finally.
"Answer my question," prompted Jimmie Dale.
"Do with them?" Burton repeated slowly. "Why, I've told you.
They'd go back to Mr. Maddon--I'd take them back."
"Would you?" Jimmie Dale's voice was quizzical.
A puzzled expression came to Burton's face.
"I don't know what you mean by that," he said. "Of course, I
"How?" asked Jimmie Dale. "Do you know the combination of Mr.
"No," said Burton
"And the safe would be locked, wouldn't it?"
"Quite so," said Jimmie Dale musingly. "Then, granted that Mr.
Maddon has not already discovered the theft, how would you replace
the stones before he does discover it? And if he already knows that
they are gone, how would you get them back into his hands?"
"Yes, I know," Burton answered a little listlessly. "I've thought
of that. There's only one way--to take them back to him myself, and
make a clean breast of it, and--" He hesitated.
"And tell him you stole them," supplied Jimmie Dale.
Burton nodded his head. "Yes," he said.
"And then?" prodded Jimmie Dale. What will Maddon do? From what
I've heard of him, he's not a man to trifle with, nor a man to take
an overly complacent view of things--not the man whose philosophy is
'all's well that ends well.'"
"What does it matter?" Burton's voice was low. "It isn't that so
much. I'm ready for that. It's the fact that he trusted me
implicitly, and I--well, I played the fool, or I'd never have got
into a mess like this."
For an instant Jimmie Dale looked at the other searchingly, and
then, smiling strangely, he shook his head.
"There's a better way than that, Burton," he said quietly.
"I think, as I said before, you've had a lesson to-night that will
last you all your life. I'm going to give you another chance--with
Maddon. Here are the stones." He reached into his pocket and laid
the case on the table.
But now Burton made no effort to take the case--his eyes, in that
puzzled way again, were on Jimmie Dale.
"A better way?" he repeated tensely. "What do you mean? What way?"
"Well, say at the expense of another man's reputation--of mine,"
suggested Jimmie Dale, with his whimsical smile. You need only say
that a man came to you this evening, told you that he stole these
rubies from Mr. Maddon during the afternoon, and asked you, as Mr.
Maddon's private secretary, to restore them with his compliments to
A slow flush of disappointment, deepening to one of anger dyed
"Are you trying to make a fool of me?" he cried out. "Go to Maddon
with a childish tale like that! There's no man living would believe
such a cock-and-bull story!"
"No?" inquired Jimmie Dale softly. "And yet I am inclined to think
there are a good many--that even Maddon would, hard-headed as he is.
You might say that when the man handed you the case you thought it
was some practical joke being foisted on you, until you opened the
case"--Jimmie Dale pushed it a little farther across the table, and
Burton, mechanically, his eyes still on Jimme Dale, loosened the
catch with his thumb nail--"until you opened the case, saw the
"The Gray Seal!" Burton had snatched the case toward him, and was
straining his eyes at the inside cover. "You--the Gray Seal!"
"Well?" said Jimmie Dale whimsically.
Motionless, the case held open in his hands, Burton stood there.
"The Gray Seal!" he whispered. Then, with a catch in his voice:
"You mean this? You mean to let me have these back--you mean--you
mean all you've said? For God's sake, don't play with me--the Gray
Seal, the most notorious criminal in the country, to give back a
fortune like this! You--you--"
"Dog with a bad name," said Jimmie Dale, with a wry smile; then, a
little gruffly: "Put it in your pocket!"
Slowly, almost as though he expected the case to be snatched back
from him the next instant, Burton obeyed.
I don't understand--I CAN'T understand!" he murmured. "They say
that you--and yet I believe you now--you've saved me from a ruined
life to-night. The Gray Seal! If--if every one knew what you had
"But every one won't," Jimmie Dale broke in bluntly, "Who is to tell
them? You? You couldn't very well, when you come to think of it--
could you? Well, who knows, perhaps there have been others like
"You mean," said Burton excitedly, "you mean that all these crimes
of yours that have seemed without motive, that have been so
inexplicable, have really been like to-night to--"
"I don't mean anything at all," interposed Jimmie Dale a little
hurriedly. "Nothing, Burton--except that there is still one little
thing more to do to bolster up that 'childish' story of mine--and
then get out of here." He glanced sharply, critically around the
room, his eyes resting for a moment at the last on the form on the
floor. Then tersely: "I am going to turn out the light--we will have
to pass the window to get to the door, and we will invite no
chances. Are you ready?"
"No; not yet," said Burton eagerly. "I haven't said what I'd like
to say to you, what I--"
"Walk straight to the door," said Jimmie Dale curtly. There was the
click of an electric-light switch, and the room was in darkness.
"Now, no noise!" he instructed.
And Burton, perforce, made his way across the room--and at the door
Jimmie Dale joined him and led him down the short flight of stairs.
At the bottom, he opened the door leading into the rear of the
pawnshop itself, and, bidding Burton follow, entered.
"We can't risk even a match; it could be seen from the street," he
said brusquely, as he fumbled around for a moment in the darkness.
"Ah--here it is!" He lifted a telephone receiver from its hook, and
gave a number.
Burton caught him quickly by the arm.
"Good Lord, man, what are you doing?" he protested anxiously.
"That's Mr. Maddon's house!"
"So I believe," said Jimmie Dale complacently. "Hello! Is Mr.
Maddon there? . . . I beg pardon? . . . Personally, yes, if you
There was a moment's wait. Burton's hand was still nervously
clutching at Jimmie Dale's sleeve. Then:
"Mr. Maddon?" asked Jimmie Dale pleasantly. "Yes? . . . I am very
sorry to trouble you, but I called you up to inquire if you were
aware that your rubies, and among them your Aracon, had been stolen?
. . . I beg pardon! . . . Rubies--yes. . . . You weren't. . . .
Oh, no, I am quite in my right mind; if you will take the trouble to
open your safe you will find they are gone--shall I hold the line
while you investigate? . . . What? . . . Don't shout, please--and
stand a little farther away from the mouthpiece." Jimmie Dale's
tone was one of insolent composure now. "There is really no use in
getting excited. . . . I beg pardon? . . . Certainly, this is the
Gray Seal speaking. . . . What?" Jimmie Dale's voice grew
plaintive, "I really can't make out a word when you yell like that.
. . . Yes. . . . I had occasion to use them this afternoon, and I
took the liberty of borrowing them temporarily--are you still there,
Mr. Maddon? . . . Oh, quite so! Yes, I hear you NOW. . . . No,
that is all, only I am returning them through your private
secretary, a very estimable young man, though I fear somewhat
excitable and shaky, who is on his way to you with them now. . . .
WHAT'S THAT YOU SAY? You repeat that," snapped Jimmie Dale
suddenly, icily, "and I'll take them from under your nose again
before morning! . . . Ah! That is better! Good-night--Mr.
Jimmie Dale hung up the receiver and shoved Burton toward the door.
"Now then, Burton, we'll get out of her--and the sooner you reach
Fifth Avenue and Mr. Maddon's house the better. No; not that way!"
They had reached the hall, and Burton had turned toward the side
door that opened on the alleyway. "Whoever they were who settled
their last account with Isaac may still be watching. They've
nothing against any one else, but they know some one was in here at
the time, and, if the police are clever enough ever to get on their
track, they might find it very convenient to be able to say WHO was
in the room when Isaac was murdered--there's nothing to show, since
Isaac so obligingly opened the window for them, that the shot was
fired THROUGH the window and not from the inside of the room. And
even if they have already taken to their heels"--Jimmie Dale was
leading Burton up the stairs again as he talked--"it might prove
exceedingly inconvenient for us if some passer-by should happen to
recollect that he saw two men of our general appearance leaving the
premises. Now keep close--and follow me."
They passed the door of Isaac's den, turned down a narrow corridor
that led to the rear of the house--Jimmie Dale guiding unerringly,
working from the mental map of the house that the Tocsin had drawn
for him--descended another short flight of stairs that gave on the
kitchen, crossed the kitchen, and Jimmie Dale opened a back door.
He paused here for a moment to listen; then, cautioning Burton to be
silent, moved on again across a small back yard and through a gate
into a lane that ran at right angles to the alleyway by which both
had entered the house--and, a minute later, they were crouched
against a building, a half block away, where the lane intersected
the cross street.
Here Jimmie Dale peered out cautiously. There was no one in sight.
He touched Burton's shoulder, and pointed down the street.
"That's your way, Burton--mine's the other. Hurry while you've got
the chance. Good-night."
Burton's hand reached out, caught Jimmie Dale's, and wrung it.
"God bless you!" he said huskily. "I--"
And Jimmie Dale pushed him out on to the street.
Burton's steps receded down the sidewalk. Jimmie Dale still
crouched against the wall. The steps grew fainter in the distance
and died finally away. Jimmie Dale straightened up, slipped the
mask from his face to his pocket, stepped out on the street--and
five minutes later was passing through the noisy bedlam of the
Hungarian restaurant on his way to the front door and his car.
"SONNEZ LE TOCSIN," Jimmie Dale was saying softly to himself. "I
wonder what she'll do when she finds I've got the ring?"
THE MAN HIGHER UP
The Tocsin! By neither act, sign, nor word had she evidenced the
slightest interest in that ring--and yet she must know, she
certainly must know that it was now in his possession. Jimmie Dale
was disappointed. Somehow, he had counted more than he had cared to
admit on developments from that ring.
He pulled a little viciously at his cigarette, as he stared out of
the St. James Club window. That was how long ago? Ten days? Yes;
this would be the eleventh. Eleven days now and no word from her--
eleven days since that night at old Isaac's, since she had last
called him, the Gray Seal, to arms. It was a long while--so long a
while even that what had come to be his prerogative in the
newspapers, the front page with three-inch type recounting some new
exploit of that mysterious criminal the Gray Seal, was being
usurped. The papers were howling now about what they, for the lack
of a better term, were pleased to call a wave of crime that had
inundated New York, and of which, for once, the Gray Seal was not
the storm centre, but rather, for the moment, forgotten.
He drew back from the window, and, settling himself again in the big
leather lounging chair, resumed the perusal of the evening paper.
His eye fell on what was common to every edition now, a crime
editorial--and the paper crackled suddenly under the long, slim,
tapering fingers, so carefully nurtured, whose sensitive tips a
hundred times had made mockery of the human ingenuity squandered on
the intricate mechanism of safes and vaults. No; he was wrong--the
Gray Seal had not been forgotten.
"We should not be surprised," wrote the editor virulently, "to
discover at the bottom of these abominable attrocities that the
guiding spirit, in fact, was the Gray Seal--they are quite worthy
even of his diabolical disregard for the laws of God and man."
Jimmie Dale's lips straightened ominously, and an angry glint crept
into his dark, steady eyes. There was nothing then, nothing too
vile that, in the public's eyes, could not logically be associated
with the Gray Seal--even this! A series of the most cold-blooded,
callous murders and robberies, the work, on the face of it, of a
well-organized band of thugs, brutal, insensate, little better than
fiends, though clever enough so far to have evaded capture, clever
enough, indeed, to have kept the police still staggering and gasping
after a clew for one murder--while another was in the very act of
being committed! The Gray Seal! What exquisite irony! And yet,
after all, the papers were not wholly to blame for what they said;
he had invited much of it. Seeming crimes of the Gray Seal had
apparently been genuine beyond any question of doubt, as he had
intended them to appear, as in the very essence of their purpose
they had to be.
"Yes; he had invited much--he and she together--the Tocsin and
himself. He, Jimmie Dale, millionaire, clubman, whose name for
generations in New York had been the family pride, was "wanted" as
the Gray Seal for so many "crimes" that he had lost track of them
himself--but from any one of which, let the identity of the Gray
Seal be once solved, there was and could be no escape! What
exquisite irony--yet full, too, of the most deadly consequences!
Once more Jimmie Dale's eyes sought the paper, and this time scanned
the headlines of the first page:
BRUTAL MURDER OF MILL PAYMASTER.
THE CRIME WAVE STILL AT ITS HEIGHT.
HERMAN ROESSLE FOUND DEAD NEAR HIS CAR.
ASSASSINS ESCAPE WITH $20,000.
Jimmie Dale read on--and as he read there came again that angry set
to his lips. The details were not pleasant. Herman Roessle, the
paymaster of the Martindale-Kensington Mills, whose plant was on the
Hudson, had gone that morning in his runabout to the nearest town,
three miles away, for the monthly pay roll; had secured the money
from the bank, a sum of twenty-odd thousand dollars; and had started
back with it for the mill. At first, it being broad daylight and a
well-frequented road, his nonappearance caused no apprehension; but
as early afternoon came and there was still no sign of Roessle the
mill management took alarm. Discovering that he had left the bank
for the return journey at a few minutes before eleven, and that
nothing had been seen of him at his home, the police were notified.
Followed then several hours of fruitless search, until finally, with
the whole countryside aroused and the efforts of the police
augumented by private search parties, the car was found in a thicket
at the edge of a crossroad some four miles back from the river, and,
a little way from the car, the body of Roessle, dead, the man's head
crushed in where it had been fiendishly battered by some blunt,
heavy object. There was no clew--no one could be found who had seen
the car on the crossroad--the murderer, or murderers, and the
twenty-odd thousand dollars in cash had disappeared leaving no trace
There were several columns of this, which Jimmie Dale skimmed
through quickly; but at the end he stared for a long time at the
last paragraph. Somehow, strange, to relate, the paper had
neglected to turn its "sob" artist loose, and the few words, added
almost as though they were an afterthought, for once rang true and
full of pathos in their very simplicity--at the Roessle home, where
Mrs. Roessle was prostrated, two little tots of five and seven, too
young to understand, had gravely received the reporter and told him
that some bad man had hurt their daddy.
"Mr. Dale, sir!"
Jimmie Dale lowered his paper. A club attendant was standing before
him, respectfully extending a silver card tray. From the man,
Jimmie Dale's eyes fixed on a white envelope on the tray. One
glance was enough--it was HERS, that letter. The Tocsin again! His
brain seemed suddenly to be afire, and he could feel his pulse
quicken, the blood begin to pound in fierce throbs at his heart.
Life and death lay in that white, innocent-looking, unaddressed
envelope, danger, peril--it was always life and death, for those
were the stakes for which the Tocsin played. But, master of many
things, Jimmie Dale was most of all master of himself. Not a muscle
of his face moved. He reached nonchalantly for the letter.
"Thank you," said Jimmie Dale.
The man bowed and started away. Jimmie Dale laid the envelope on
the arm of the lounging chair. The man had reached the door when
Jimmie Dale stopped him.
"Oh, by the way," said Jimmie Dale languidly, "where did this come
"Your chauffeur, sir," replied the other. "Your chauffeur gave it
to the hall porter a moment ago, sir."
"Thank you," said Jimmie Dale again.
The door closed.
Jimmie Dale glanced around the room. It was the caution of habit,
that glance; the habit of years in which his life had hung on little
things. He was alone in one of the club's private library rooms.
He picked up the envelope, tore it open, took out the folded sheets
inside, and began to read. At the first words he leaned forward,
suddenly tense in his chair. He read on, turning the pages
hurriedly, incredulity, amazement, and, finally, a strange menace
mirroring itself in turn upon his face.
He stood up--the letter in his hand.
"My God!" whispered Jimmie Dale.
It was a call to arms such as the Gray Seal had never received
before--such as the Tocsin had never made before. And if it were
true it-- True! He laughed aloud a little gratingly. True! Had
the Tocsin, astounding, unbelievable, mystifying as were the means
by which she acquired her knowledge not only of this, but of
countless other affairs, ever by so much as the smallest detail been
astray. If it were true!
He pulled out his watch. It was half-past nine. Benson, his
chauffeur, had sent the letter into the club. Benson had been
waiting outside there ever since dinner. Jimmie Dale, for the first
time since the first communication that he had ever received from
the Tocsin, did not immediately destroy her letter now. He slipped
it into his pocket--and stepped quickly from the room.
In the cloakroom downstairs he secured his hat and overcoat, and,
though it was a warm evening, put on the latter since he was in
evening clothes, then walked leisurely out of the club.
At the curb, Benson, the chauffeur, sprang from his seat, and,
touching his cap, opened the door of a luxurious limousine.
Jimmie Dale shook his head.
"I shall not keep you waiting any longer, Benson," he said. "You
may take the car home, and put it up. I shall probably be late to-
"Very good, sir," replied the chauffeur.
"You sent in a letter a moment or so ago, Benson?" observed Jimmie
Dale casually, opening his cigarette case.
"Yes, sir," said Benson. "I hope I didn't do wrong, sir. He said
it was important, and that you were to have it at once."