Part 5 out of 6
"that you considered me kind, thoughtful and considerate. You know me
no better to-day than you did then, but I want to beg you to trust me a
little. Can you trust yourself to my protection until we reach your friends
"Why, I--" the girl faltered, taken by surprise.
"Mr. Kirkwood!" cried Mrs. Hallam angrily, finding her voice.
Kirkwood turned to meet her onslaught with a mien grave, determined,
unflinching. "Please do not interfere, Madam," he said quietly.
"You are impertinent, sir! Dorothy, I forbid you to listen to this person!"
The girl flushed, lifting her chin a trifle. "Forbid?" she repeated
Kirkwood was quick to take advantage of her resentment. "Mrs. Hallam is not
fitted to advise you," he insisted, "nor can she control your actions. It
must already have occurred to you that you're rather out of place in the
present circumstances. The men who have brought you hither, I believe you
already see through, to some extent. Forgive my speaking plainly ... But
that is why you have accepted Mrs. Hallam's offer of protection. Will you
take my word for it, when I tell you she has not your right interests at
heart, but the reverse? I happen to know, Miss Calendar, and I--"
"How dare you, sir?"
Flaming with rage, Mrs. Hallam put herself bodily between them, confronting
Kirkwood in white-lipped desperation, her small, gloved hands clenched and
quivering at her sides, her green eyes dangerous.
But Kirkwood could silence her; and he did. "Do you wish me to speak
frankly, Madam? Do you wish me to tell what I know--and all I know--," with
rising emphasis,--"of your social status and your relations with Calendar
and Mulready? I promise you that if you wish it, or force me to it...."
But he had need to say nothing further; the woman's eyes wavered before his
and a little sob of terror forced itself between her shut teeth. Kirkwood
smiled grimly, with a face of brass, impenetrable, inflexible. And suddenly
she turned from him with indifferent bravado.
"As Mr. Kirkwood says, Dorothy," she said in her high, metallic voice, "I
have no authority over you. But if you're silly enough to consider for a
moment this fellow's insulting suggestion, if you're fool enough to go with
him, unchaperoned through Europe and imperil your--"
"Mrs. Hallam!" Kirkwood cut her short with a menacing tone.
"Why, then, I wash my hands of you," concluded the woman defiantly. "Make
your choice, my child," she added with a meaning laugh and moved away,
humming a snatch from a French _chanson_ which brought the hot blood to
But the girl did not understand; and he was glad of that. "You may judge
between us," he appealed to her directly, once more. "I can only offer
you my word of honor as an American gentleman that you shall be landed in
England, safe and sound, by the first available steamer--"
"There's no need to say more, Mr. Kirkwood," Dorothy informed him quietly.
"I have already decided. I think I begin to understand some things clearly,
now.... If you're ready, we will go."
From the window, where she stood, holding the curtains back and staring
out, Mrs. Hallam turned with a curling lip.
[Illustration: From the window, Mrs. Hallam turned with a curling lip.]
"'The honor of an American gentleman,'" she quoted with a stinging sneer;
"I'm sure I wish you comfort of it, child!"
"We must make haste, Miss Calendar," said Kirkwood, ignoring the
implication. "Have you a traveling-bag?"
She silently indicated a small valise, closed and strapped, on a table by
the bed, and immediately passed out into the hall. Kirkwood took the case
containing the gladstone bag in one hand, the girl's valise in the other,
As he turned the head of the stairs he looked back. Mrs. Hallam was still
at the window, her back turned. From her very passiveness he received an
impression of something ominous and forbidding; if she had lost a trick or
two of the game she played, she still held cards, was not at the end of her
resources. She stuck in his imagination for many an hour as a force to be
For the present he understood that she was waiting to apprise Calendar and
Mulready of their flight. With the more haste, then, he followed Dorothy
down the three flights, through the tiny office, where Madam sat sound
asleep at her over-burdened desk, and out.
Opposite the door they were fortunate enough to find a fiacre drawn up in
waiting at the curb. Kirkwood opened the door for the girl to enter.
"Gare du Sud," he directed the driver. "Drive your fastest--double fare for
The driver awoke with a start from profound reverie, looked Kirkwood over,
and bowed with gesticulative palms.
"M'sieu', I am desolated, but engaged!" he protested.
"Precisely." Kirkwood deposited the two bags on the forward seat of the
conveyance, and stood back to convince the man. "Precisely," said he,
undismayed. "The lady who engaged you is remaining for a time; I will
settle her bill."
"Very well, M'sieu'!" The driver disclaimed responsibility and accepted the
favor of the gods with a speaking shrug. "M'sieu' said the Gare du Sud? _En
Kirkwood jumped in and shut the door; the vehicle drew slowly away from
the curb, then with gratifying speed hammered up-stream on the embankment.
Bending forward, elbows on knees, Kirkwood watched the sidewalks narrowly,
partly to cover the girl's constraint, due to Mrs. Hallam's attitude,
partly on the lookout for Calendar and his confederates. In a few moments
they passed a public clock.
"We've missed the Flushing boat," he announced. "I'm making a try for the
Hoek van Holland line. We may possibly make it. I know that it leaves by
the Sud Quai, and that's all I do know," he concluded with an apologetic
"And if we miss that?" asked the girl, breaking silence for the first time
since they had left the hotel.
"We'll take the first train out of Antwerp."
"Wherever the first train goes, Miss Calendar.... The main point is to get
away to-night. That we must do, no matter where we land, or how we get
there. To-morrow we can plan with more certainty."
"Yes..." Her assent was more a sigh than a word.
The cab, dashing down the Rue Leopold de Wael, swung into the Place du Sud,
before the station. Kirkwood, acutely watchful, suddenly thrust head and
shoulders out of his window (fortunately it was the one away from the
depot), and called up to the driver.
"Don't stop! Gare Centrale now--and treble fare!"
"_Oui, M'sieu'! Allons!_"
The whip cracked and the horse swerved sharply round the corner into the
Avenue du Sud. The young man, with a hushed exclamation, turned in his
seat, lifting the flap over the little peephole in the back of the
He had not been mistaken. Calendar was standing in front of the station;
and it was plain to be seen, from his pose, that the madly careering fiacre
interested him more than slightly. Irresolute, perturbed, the man took
a step or two after it, changed his mind, and returned to his post of
Kirkwood dropped the flap and turned back to find the girl's wide eyes
searching his face. He said nothing.
"What was that?" she asked after a patient moment.
"Your father, Miss Calendar," he returned uncomfortably.
There fell a short pause; then: "Why--will you tell me--is it necessary to
run away from my father, Mr. Kirkwood?" she demanded, with a moving little
break in her voice.
Kirkwood hesitated. It were unfeeling to tell her why; yet it was essential
that she should know, however painful the knowledge might prove to her.
And she was insistent; he might not dodge the issue. "Why?" she repeated as
"I wish you wouldn't press me for an answer just now, Miss Calendar."
"Don't you think I had better know?"
Instinctively he inclined his head in assent.
Kirkwood bent forward and patted the flank of the satchel that held the
"What does that mean, Mr. Kirkwood?"
"That I have the jewels," he told her tersely, looking straight ahead.
At his shoulder he heard a low gasp of amazement and incredulity
"But--! How did you get them? My father deposited them in bank this
"He must have taken them out again.... I got them on board the Alethea,
where your father was conferring with Mulready and Captain Stryker."
"You took them from those men?--you!... But didn't my father--?"
"I had to persuade him," said Kirkwood simply.
"But there were three of them against you!"
"Mulready wasn't--ah--feeling very well, and Stryker's a coward. They gave
me no trouble. I locked them in Stryker's room, lifted the bag of jewels,
and came away.... I ought to tell you that they were discussing the
advisability of sailing away without you--leaving you here, friendless and
without means. That's why I considered it my duty to take a hand.... I
don't like to tell you this so brutally, but you ought to know, and I can't
see how to tone it down," he concluded awkwardly.
But for some moments she did not speak. He avoided looking at her.
The fiacre, rolling at top speed but smoothly on the broad avenues that
encircle the ancient city, turned into the Avenue de Keyser, bringing into
sight the Gare Centrale.
"You don't--k-know--" began the girl without warning, in a voice gusty with
"Steady on!" said Kirkwood gently. "I do know, but don't let's talk about
it now. We'll be at the station in a minute, and I'll get out and see
what's to be done about a train, if neither Mulready or Stryker are about.
You stay in the carriage.... No!" He changed his mind suddenly. "I'll not
risk losing you again. It's a risk we'll have to run in company."
"Please!" she agreed brokenly.
The fiacre slowed up and stopped.
"Are you all right, Miss Calendar?" Kirkwood asked.
The girl sat up, lifting her head proudly. "I am quite ready," she said,
steadying her voice.
Kirkwood reconnoitered through the window, while the driver was descending.
"Gare Centrale, M'sieu'," he said, opening the door.
"No one in sight," Kirkwood told the girl. "Come, please."
He got out and gave her his hand, then paid the driver, picked up the two
bags, and hurried with Dorothy into the station, to find in waiting a
string of cars into which people were moving at leisurely rate. His
inquiries at the ticket-window developed the fact that it was the 22:26 for
Brussels, the last train leaving the Gare Centrale that night, and due to
start in ten minutes.
The information settled their plans for once and all; Kirkwood promptly
secured through tickets, also purchasing "Reserve" supplementary tickets
which entitled them to the use of those modern corridor coaches which take
the place of first-class compartments on the Belgian state railways.
"It's a pleasure," said Kirkwood lightly, as he followed the girl into one
of these, "to find one's self in a common-sense sort of a train again.
'Feels like home." He put their luggage in one of the racks and sat down
beside her, chattering with simulated cheerfulness in a vain endeavor to
lighten her evident depression of spirit. "I always feel like a traveling
anachronism in one of your English trains," he said. "You can't
The girl smiled bravely.... "And after Brussels?" she inquired.
"First train for the coast," he said promptly. "Dover, Ostend,
Boulogne,--whichever proves handiest, no matter which, so long as it gets
us on English soil without undue delay."
She said "Yes" abstractedly, resting an elbow on the window-sill and her
chin in her palm, to stare with serious, sweet brown eyes out into the
arc-smitten night that hung beneath the echoing roof.
Kirkwood fidgeted in despite of the constraint he placed himself under, to
be still and not disturb her needlessly. Impatience and apprehension of
misfortune obsessed his mental processes in equal degree. The ten minutes
seemed interminable that elapsed ere the grinding couplings advertised the
imminence of their start.
The guards began to bawl, the doors to slam, belated travelers to dash
madly for the coaches. The train gave a preliminary lurch ere settling down
to its league-long inland dash.
Kirkwood, in a fever of hope and an ague of fear, saw a man sprint
furiously across the platform and throw himself on the forward steps of
their coach, on the very instant of the start.
Presently he entered by the forward door and walked slowly through,
narrowly inspecting the various passengers. As he approached the seats
occupied by Kirkwood and Dorothy Calendar, his eyes encountered the young
man's, and he leered evilly. Kirkwood met the look with one that was like a
kick, and the fellow passed with some haste into the car behind.
"Who was that?" demanded the girl, without moving her head.
"How did you know?" he asked, astonished. "You didn't look--"
"I saw your knuckles whiten beneath the skin.... Who was it?"
"Hobbs," he acknowledged bitterly; "the mate of the _Alethea_."
"I know.... And you think--?"
"Yes. He must have been ashore when I was on board the brigantine; he
certainly wasn't in the cabin. Evidently they hunted him up, or ran across
him, and pressed him into service.... You see, they're watching every
outlet.... But we'll win through, never fear!"
TRAVELS WITH A CHAPERON
The train, escaping the outskirts of the city, remarked the event with an
exultant shriek, then settled down, droning steadily, to night-devouring
flight. In the corridor-car the few passengers disposed themselves to
drowse away the coming hour--the short hour's ride that, in these piping
days of frantic traveling, separates Antwerp from the capital city of
A guard, slamming gustily in through the front door, reeled unsteadily down
the aisle. Kirkwood, rousing from a profound reverie, detained him with a
gesture and began to interrogate him in French. When he departed presently
it transpired that the girl was unaquainted with that tongue.
"I didn't understand, you know," she told him with a slow, shy smile.
"I was merely questioning him about the trains from Brussels to-night. We
daren't stop, you see; we must go on,--keep Hobbs on the jump and lose him,
if possible. There's where our advantage lies--in having only Hobbs to deal
with. He's not particularly intellectual; and we've two heads to his one,
besides. If we can prevent him from guessing our destination and wiring
back to Antwerp, we may win away. You understand?"
"Perfectly," she said, brightening. "And what do you purpose doing now?"
"I can't tell yet. The guard's gone to get me some information about the
night trains on other lines. In the meantime, don't fret about Hobbs; I'll
answer for Hobbs."
"I shan't be worried," she said simply, "with you here...."
Whatever answer he would have made he was obliged to postpone because of
the return of the guard, with a handful of time-tables; and when, rewarded
with a modest gratuity, the man had gone his way, and Kirkwood turned again
to the girl, she had withdrawn her attention for the time.
Unconscious of his bold regard, she was dreaming, her thoughts at
loose-ends, her eyes studying the incalculable depths of blue-black night
that swirled and eddied beyond the window-glass. The most shadowy of smiles
touched her lips, the faintest shade of deepened color rested on her
cheeks.... She was thinking of--him? As long as he dared, the young man,
his heart in his own eyes, watched her greedily, taking a miser's joy of
her youthful beauty, striving with all his soul to analyze the enigma of
that most inscrutable smile.
It baffled him. He could not say of what she thought; and told himself
bitterly that it was not for him, a pauper, to presume a place in her
meditations. He must not forget his circumstances, nor let her tolerance
render him oblivious to his place, which must be a servant's, not a
The better to convince himself of this, he plunged desperately into
a forlorn attempt to make head or tail of Belgian railway schedule,
complicated as these of necessity are by the alternation from normal
time notation to the abnormal system sanctioned by the government, and
_vice-versa_, with every train that crosses a boundary line of the state.
So preoccupied did he become in this pursuit that he was subconsciously
impressed that the girl had spoken twice, ere he could detach his interest
from the exasperatingly inconclusive and incoherent cohorts of ranked
"Can't you find out anything?" Dorothy was asking.
"Precious little," he grumbled. "I'd give my head for a Bradshaw! Only it
wouldn't be a fair exchange.... There seems to be an express for
Bruges leaving the Gare du Nord, Brussels, at fifty-five minutes after
twenty-three o'clock; and if I'm not mistaken, that's the latest train out
of Brussels and the earliest we can catch,... if we _can_ catch it. I've
never been in Brussels, and Heaven only knows how long it would take us to
cab it from the Gare du Midi to the Nord."
In this statement, however, Mr. Kirkwood was fortunately mistaken; not
only Heaven, it appeared, had cognizance of the distance between the two
stations. While Kirkwood was still debating the question, with pessimistic
tendencies, the friendly guard had occasion to pass through the coach; and,
being tapped, yielded the desired information with entire tractability.
It would be a cab-ride of perhaps ten minutes. Monsieur, however, would
serve himself well if he offered the driver an advance tip as an incentive
to speedy driving. Why? Why because (here the guard consulted his watch;
and Kirkwood very keenly regretted the loss of his own)--because this
train, announced to arrive in Brussels some twenty minutes prior to the
departure of that other, was already late. But yes--a matter of some ten
minutes. Could that not be made up? Ah, Monsieur, but who should say?
The guard departed, doubtless with private views as to the madness of all
"And there we are!" commented Kirkwood in factitious resignation. "If we're
obliged to stop overnight in Brussels, our friends will be on our back
before we can get out in the morning, if they have to come by motor-car."
He reflected bitterly on the fact that with but a little more money at
his disposal, he too could hire a motor-car and cry defiance to their
persecutors. "However," he amended, with rising spirits, "so much the
better our chance of losing Mr. Hobbs. We must be ready to drop off the
instant the train stops."
He began to unfold another time-table, threatening again to lose himself
completely; and was thrown into the utmost confusion by the touch of
the girl's hand, in appeal placed lightly on his own. And had she been
observant, she might have seen a second time his knuckles whiten beneath
the skin as he asserted his self-control--though this time not over his
His eyes, dumbly eloquent, turned to meet hers. She was smiling.
"Please!" she iterated, with the least imperative pressure on his hand,
pushing the folder aside.
"I beg pardon?" he muttered blankly.
"Is it quite necessary, now, to study those schedules? Haven't you decided
to try for the Bruges express?"
"Why yes, but--"
"Then please don't leave me to my thoughts all the time, Mr. Kirkwood."
There was a tremor of laughter in her voice, but her eyes were grave and
earnest. "I'm very weary of thinking round in a circle--and that," she
concluded, with a nervous little laugh, "is all I've had to do for days!"
"I'm afraid I'm very stupid," he humored her. "This is the second time, you
know, in the course of a very brief acquaintance, that you have found it
necessary to remind me to talk to you."
"Oh-h!" She brightened. "That night, at the Pless? But that was _ages_
"It seems so," he admitted.
"So much has happened!"
"Yes," he assented vaguely.
She watched him, a little piqued by his absent-minded mood, for a moment;
then, and not without a trace of malice: "Must I tell you again what to
talk about?" she asked.
"Forgive me. I was thinking about, if not talking to, you.... I've been
wondering just why it was that you left the _Alethea_ at Queensborough, to
go on by steamer."
And immediately he was sorry that his tactless query had swung the
conversation to bear upon her father, the thought of whom could not but
prove painful to her. But it was too late to mend matters; already her
evanescent flush of amusement had given place to remembrance.
"It was on my father's account," she told him in a steady voice, but with
averted eyes; "he is a very poor sailor, and the promise of a rough passage
terrified him. I believe there was a difference of opinion about it, he
disputing with Mr. Mulready and Captain Stryker. That was just after we had
left the anchorage. They both insisted that it was safer to continue by
the _Alethea_, but he wouldn't listen to them, and in the end had his way.
Captain Stryker ran the brigantine into the mouth of the Medway and put us
ashore just in time to catch the steamer."
"Were you sorry for the change?"
"I?" She shuddered slightly. "Hardly! I think I hated the ship from the
moment I set foot on board her. It was a dreadful place; it was all
night-marish, that night, but it seemed most terrible on the _Alethea_ with
Captain Stryker and that abominable Mr. Hobbs. I think that my unhappiness
had as much to do with my father's insistence on the change, as anything.
He ... he was very thoughtful, most of the time."
Kirkwood shut his teeth on what he knew of the blackguard.
"I don't know why," she continued, wholly without affectation, "but I was
wretched from the moment you left me in the cab, to wait while you went in
to see Mrs. Hallam. And when we left you, at Bermondsey Old Stairs, after
what you had said to me, I felt--I hardly know what to say--abandoned, in a
"But you were with your father, in his care--"
"I know, but I was getting confused. Until then the excitement had kept me
from thinking. But you made me think. I began to wonder, to question ...
But what could I do?" She signified her helplessness with a quick and
dainty movement of her hands. "He is my father; and I'm not yet of age, you
"I thought so," he confessed, troubled. "It's very inconsiderate of you,
you must admit."
"I don't understand..."
"Because of the legal complication. I've no doubt your father can 'have
the law on me'"--Kirkwood laughed uneasily--"for taking you from his
"Protection!" she echoed warmly. "If you call it that!"
"Kidnapping," he said thoughtfully: "I presume that'd be the charge."
"Oh!" She laughed the notion to scorn. "Besides, they must catch us first,
"Of course; and"--with a simulation of confidence sadly deceitful--"they
shan't, Mr. Hobbs to the contrary notwithstanding."
"You make me share your confidence, against my better judgment."
"I wish your better judgment would counsel you to share your confidence
with me," he caught her up. "If you would only tell me what it's all about,
as far as you know, I'd be better able to figure out what we ought to do."
Briefly the girl sat silent, staring before her with sweet somber eyes.
Then, "In the very beginning," she told him with a conscious laugh,--"this
sounds very story-bookish, I know--in the very beginning, George Burgoyne
Calendar, an American, married his cousin a dozen times removed, and an
Englishwoman, Alice Burgoyne Hallam."
"Wait, please." She sat up, bending forward and frowning down upon her
interlacing, gloved fingers; she was finding it difficult to say what she
must. Kirkwood, watching hungrily the fair drooping head, the flawless
profile clear and radiant against the night-blackened window, saw hot
signals of shame burning on her cheek and throat and forehead.
"But never mind," he began awkwardly.
"No," she told him with decision. "Please let me go on...." She continued,
stumbling, trusting to his sympathy to bridge the gaps in her narrative.
"My father ... There was trouble of some sort.... At all events, he
disappeared when I was a baby. My mother ... died. I was brought up in
the home of my great-uncle, Colonel George Burgoyne, of the Indian
Army--retired. My mother had been his favorite niece, they say; I presume
that was why he cared for me. I grew up in his home in Cornwall; it was my
home, just as he was my father in everything but fact.
"A year ago he died, leaving me everything,--the town house in Frognall
Street, his estate in Cornwall: everything was willed to me on condition
that I must never live with my father, nor in any way contribute to his
support. If I disobeyed, the entire estate without reserve was to go to his
nearest of kin.... Colonel Burgoyne was unmarried and had no children."
The girl paused, lifting to Kirkwood's face her eyes, clear, fearless,
truthful. "I never was given to understand that there was anybody who might
have inherited, other than myself," she declared.
"Last week I received a letter, signed with my father's name, begging me to
appoint an interview with him in London. I did so,--guess how gladly! I was
alone in the world, and he, my father, whom I had never thought to see....
We met at his hotel, the Pless. He wanted me to come and live with
him,--said that he was growing old and lonely and needed a daughter's love
and care. He told me that he had made a fortune in America and was amply
able to provide for us both. As for my inheritance, he persuaded me that it
was by rights the property of Frederick Hallam, Mrs. Hallam's son."
"I have met the young gentleman," interpolated Kirkwood.
"His name was new to me, but my father assured me that he was the next of
kin mentioned in Colonel Burgoyne's will, and convinced me that I had no
real right to the property.... After all, he was my father; I agreed; I
could not bear the thought of wronging anybody. I was to give up everything
but my mother's jewels. It seems,--my father said,--I don't--I can't
believe it now--"
She choked on a little, dry sob. It was some time before she seemed able to
"I was told that my great-uncle's collection of jewels had been my mother's
property. He had in life a passion for collecting jewels, and it had been
his whim to carry them with him, wherever he went. When he died in Frognall
Street, they were in the safe by the head of his bed. I, in my grief, at
first forgot them, and then afterwards carelessly put off removing them.
"To come back to my father: Night before last we were to call on Mrs.
Hallam. It was to be our last night in England; we were to sail for the
Continent on the private yacht of a friend of my father's, the next
morning.... This is what I was told--and believed, you understand.
"That night Mrs. Hallam was dining at another table at the Pless, it seems.
I did not then know her. When leaving, she put a note on our table, by my
father's elbow. I was astonished beyond words.... He seemed much agitated,
told me that he was called away on urgent business, a matter of life and
death, and begged me to go alone to Frognall Street, get the jewels and
meet him at Mrs. Hallam's later.... I wasn't altogether a fool, for I began
dimly to suspect, then, that something was wrong; but I was a fool, for I
consented to do as he desired. You understand--you know--?"
"I do, indeed," replied Kirkwood grimly. "I understand a lot of things now
that I didn't five minutes ago. Please let me think..."
But the time he took for deliberation was short. He had hoped to find a way
to spare her, by sparing Calendar; but momentarily he was becoming more
impressed with the futility of dealing with her save in terms of candor,
merciful though they might seem harsh.
"I must tell you," he said, "that you have been outrageously misled,
swindled and deceived. I have heard from your father's own lips that Mrs.
Hallam was to pay him two thousand pounds for keeping you out of England
and losing you your inheritance. I'm inclined to question, furthermore, the
assertion that these jewels were your mother's. Frederick Hallam was the
man who followed you into the Frognall Street house and attacked me on the
stairs; Mrs. Hallam admits that he went there to get the jewels. But he
didn't want anybody to know it."
"But that doesn't prove--"
"Just a minute." Rapidly and concisely Kirkwood recounted the events
wherein he had played a part, subsequent to the adventure of Bermondsey Old
Stairs. He was guilty of but one evasion; on one point only did he slur the
truth: he conceived it his honorable duty to keep the girl in ignorance of
his straitened circumstances; she was not to be distressed by knowledge of
his distress, nor could he tolerate the suggestion of seeming to play for
her sympathy. It was necessary, then, to invent a motive to excuse his
return to 9, Frognall Street. I believe he chose to exaggerate the
inquisitiveness of his nature and threw in for good measure a desire
to recover a prized trinket of no particular moment, esteemed for its
associations, and so forth. But whatever the fabrication, it passed muster;
to the girl his motives seemed less important than the discoveries that
resulted from them.
"I am afraid," he concluded the summary of the confabulation he had
overheard at the skylight of the Alethea's cabin, "you'd best make up your
mind that your father--"
"Yes," whispered the girl huskily; and turned her face to the window, a
quivering muscle in the firm young throat alone betraying her emotion.
"It's a bad business," he pursued relentlessly: "bad all round. Mulready,
in your father's pay, tries to have him arrested, the better to rob him.
Mrs. Hallam, to secure your property for that precious pet, Freddie,
connives at, if she doesn't instigate, a kidnapping. Your father takes her
money to deprive you of yours,--which could profit him nothing so long as
you remained in lawful possession of it; and at the same time he conspires
to rob, through you, the rightful owners--if they are rightful owners. And
if they are, why does Freddie Hallam go like a thief in the night to secure
property that's his beyond dispute?... I don't really think you owe your
father any further consideration."
He waited patiently. Eventually, "No-o," the girl sobbed assent.
"It's this way: Calendar, counting on your sparing him in the end, is going
to hound us. He's doing it now: there's Hobbs in the next car, for proof.
Until these jewels are returned, whether to Frognall Street or to young
Hallam, we're both in danger, both thieves in the sight of the law. And
your father knows that, too. There's no profit to be had by discounting the
temper of these people; they're as desperate a gang of swindlers as ever
lived. They'll have those jewels if they have to go as far as murder--"
"Mr. Kirkwood!" she deprecated, in horror.
He wagged his head stubbornly, ominously. "I've seen them in the raw.
They're hot on our trail now; ten to one, they'll be on our backs before we
can get across the Channel. Once in England we will be comparatively safe.
Until then ... But I'm a brute--I'm frightening you!"
"You are, dreadfully," she confessed in a tremulous voice.
"Forgive me. If you look at the dark side first, the other seems all the
brighter. Please don't worry; we'll pull through with flying colors, or my
name's not Philip Kirkwood!"
"I have every faith in you," she informed him, flawlessly sincere. "When
I think of all you've done and dared for me, on the mere suspicion that I
needed your help--"
"We'd best be getting ready," he interrupted hastily. "Here's Brussels."
It was so. Lights, in little clusters and long, wheeling lines, were
leaping out of the darkness and flashing back as the train rumbled through
the suburbs of the little Paris of the North. Already the other passengers
were bestirring themselves, gathering together wraps and hand luggage, and
preparing for the journey's end.
Rising, Kirkwood took down their two satchels from the overhead rack,
and waited, in grim abstraction planning and counterplanning against the
machinations in whose wiles they two had become so perilously entangled.
Primarily, there was Hobbs to be dealt with; no easy task, for Kirkwood
dared not resort to violence nor in any way invite the attention of the
authorities; and threats would be an idle waste of breath, in the case of
that corrupt and malignant, little cockney, himself as keen as any needle,
adept in all the artful resources of the underworld whence he had sprung,
and further primed for action by that master rogue, Calendar.
The train was pulling slowly into the station when he reluctantly abandoned
his latest unfeasible scheme for shaking off the little Englishman,
and concluded that their salvation was only to be worked out through
everlasting vigilance, incessant movement, and the favor of the blind
goddess, Fortune. There was comfort of a sort in the reflection that
the divinity of chance is at least blind; her favors are impartially
distributed; the swing of the wheel of the world is not always to the
advantage of the wrongdoer and the scamp.
He saw nothing of Hobbs as they alighted and hastened from the station, and
hardly had time to waste looking for him, since their train had failed to
make up the precious ten minutes. Consequently he dismissed the fellow from
his thoughts until--with Brussels lingering in their memories a garish
vision of brilliant streets and glowing cafés, glimpsed furtively
from their cab windows during its wild dash over the broad mid-city,
boulevards--at midnight they settled themselves in a carriage of the Bruges
express. They were speeding along through the open country with a noisy
clatter; then a minute's investigation sufficed to discover the mate of the
_Alethea_ serenely ensconced in the coach behind.
The little man seemed rarely complacent, and impudently greeted Kirkwood's
scowling visage, as the latter peered through the window in the coach-door,
with a smirk and a waggish wave of his hand. The American by main strength
of will-power mastered an impulse to enter and wring his neck, and returned
to the girl, more disturbed than he cared to let her know.
There resulted from his review of the case but one plan for outwitting Mr.
Hobbs, and that lay in trusting to his confidence that Kirkwood and Dorothy
Calendar would proceed as far toward Ostend as the train would take
them--namely, to the limit of the run, Bruges.
Thus inspired, Kirkwood took counsel with the girl, and when the train
paused at Ghent, they made an unostentatious exit from their coach, finding
themselves, when the express had rolled on into the west, upon a station
platform in a foreign city at nine minutes past one o'clock in the
morning--but at length without their shadow. Mr. Hobbs had gone on to
Kirkwood sped his journeyings with an unspoken malediction, and collected
himself to cope with a situation which was to prove hardly more happy for
them than the espionage they had just eluded. The primal flush of triumph
which had saturated the American's humor on this signal success, proved but
fictive and transitory when inquiry of the station attendants educed the
information that the two earliest trains to be obtained were the 5:09 for
Dunkerque and the 5:37 for Ostend. A minimum delay of four hours was to be
endured in the face of many contingent features singularly unpleasant to
contemplate. The station waiting-room was on the point of closing for the
night, and Kirkwood, already alarmed by the rapid ebb of the money he had
had of Calendar, dared not subject his finances to the strain of a night's
lodging at one of Ghent's hotels. He found himself forced to be cruel to
be kind to the girl, and Dorothy's cheerful acquiescence to their sole
alternative of tramping the street until daybreak did nothing to alleviate
It was permitted them to occupy a bench outside the station. There the
girl, her head pillowed on the treasure bag, napped uneasily, while
Kirkwood plodded restlessly to and fro, up and down the platform, communing
with the Shade of Care and addling his poor, weary wits with the problem
of the future,--not so much his own as the future of the unhappy child for
whose welfare he had assumed responsibility. Dark for both of them, in his
understanding To-morrow loomed darkest for her.
Not until the gray, formless light of the dawn-dusk was wavering over the
land, did he cease his perambulations. Then a gradual stir of life in the
city streets, together with the appearance of a station porter or two,
opening the waiting-rooms and preparing them against the traffic of the
day, warned him that he must rouse his charge. He paused and stood over
her, reluctant to disturb her rest, such as it was, his heart torn with
compassion for her, his soul embittered by the cruel irony of their estate.
If what he understood were true, a king's ransom was secreted within the
cheap, imitation-leather satchel which served her for a pillow. But it
availed her nothing for her comfort. If what he believed were true, she was
absolute mistress of that treasure of jewels; yet that night she had been
forced to sleep on a hard, uncushioned bench, in the open air, and this
morning he must waken her to the life of a hunted thing. A week ago she had
had at her command every luxury known to the civilized world; to-day she
was friendless, but for his inefficient, worthless self, and in a strange
land. A week ago,--had he known her then,--he had been free to tell her of
his love, to offer her the protection of his name as well as his devotion;
to-day he was an all but penniless vagabond, and there could be no dishonor
deeper than to let her know the nature of his heart's desire.
Was ever lover hedged from a declaration to his mistress by circumstances
so hateful, so untoward! He could have raged and railed against his fate
like any madman. For he desired her greatly, and she was very lovely in his
sight. If her night's rest had been broken and but a mockery, she showed
few signs of it; the faint, wan complexion of fatigue seemed only to
enhance the beauty of her maidenhood; her lips were as fresh and desirous
as the dewy petals of a crimson rose; beneath her eyes soft shadows lurked
where her lashes lay tremulous upon her cheeks of satin.... She was to him
of all created things the most wonderful, the most desirable.
The temptation of his longing seemed more than he could long withstand. But
resist he must, or part for ever with any title to her consideration--or
his own. He shut his teeth and knotted his brows in a transport of desire
to touch, if only with his finger-tips, the woven wonder of her hair.
And thus she saw him, when, without warning, she awoke.
Bewilderment at first informed the wide brown eyes; then, as their
drowsiness vanished, a little laughter, a little tender mirth.
"Good morning, Sir Knight of the Somber Countenance!" she cried, standing
up. "Am I so utterly disreputable that you find it necessary to frown on me
He shook his head, smiling.
"I know I'm a fright," she asserted vigorously, shaking out the folds of
her pleated skirt. "And as for my hat, it will never be on straight--but
then _you_ wouldn't know."
"It seems all right," he replied vacantly.
"Then please to try to look a little happier, since you find me quite
Without lifting her bended head, she looked up, laughing, not ill-pleased.
"_You'd_ say so... really?"
Commonplace enough, this banter, this pitiful endeavor to be oblivious of
their common misery; but like the look she gave him, her words rang in his
head like potent fumes of wine. He turned away, utterly disconcerted for
the time, knowing only that he must overcome his weakness.
Far down the railway tracks there rose a murmuring, that waxed to a
rumbling roar. A passing porter answered Kirkwood's inquiry: it was the
night boat-train from Ostend. He picked up their bags and drew the girl
into the waiting-room, troubled by a sickening foreboding.
Through the window they watched the train roll in and stop.
Among others, alighted, smirking, the unspeakable Hobbs.
He lifted his hat and bowed jauntily to the waiting-room window, making it
plain that his keen eyes had discovered them instantly.
Kirkwood's heart sank with the hopelessness of it all. If the railway
directorates of Europe conspired against them, what chance had they? If the
night boat-train from Ostend had only had the decency to be twenty-five
minutes late, instead of arriving promptly on the minute of 4:45 they two
might have escaped by the 5:09 for Dunkerque and Calais.
There remained but a single untried ruse in his bag of tricks; mercifully
it might suffice.
"Miss Calendar," said Kirkwood from his heart, "just as soon as I get you
home, safe and sound, I am going to take a day off, hunt up that little
villain, and flay him alive. In the meantime, I forgot to dine last night,
and am reminded that we had better forage for breakfast."
Hobbs dogged them at a safe distance while they sallied forth and in a
neighboring street discovered an early-bird bakery. Here they were able to
purchase rolls steaming from the oven, fresh pats of golden butter wrapped
in clean lettuce leaves, and milk in twin bottles; all of which they
prosaically carried with them back to the station, lacking leisure as they
did to partake of the food before train-time.
Without attempting concealment (Hobbs, he knew, was eavesdropping round the
corner of the door) Kirkwood purchased at the ticket-window passages on
the Dunkerque train. Mr. Hobbs promptly flattered him by imitation; and
so jealous of his luck was Kirkwood by this time grown, through continual
disappointment, that he did not even let the girl into his plans until they
were aboard the 5:09, in a compartment all to themselves. Then, having with
his own eyes seen Mr. Hobbs dodge into the third compartment in the rear of
the same carriage, Kirkwood astonished the girl by requesting her to follow
him; and together they left by the door opposite that by which they had
The engine was running up and down a scale of staccato snorts, in
preparation for the race, and the cars were on the edge of moving,
couplings clanking, wheels a-groan, ere Mr. Hobbs condescended to join them
between the tracks.
Wearily, disheartened, Kirkwood reopened the door, flung the bags in, and
helped the girl back into their despised compartment; the quicker route to
England via Ostend was now out of the question. As for himself, he waited
for a brace of seconds, eying wickedly the ubiquitous Hobbs, who had popped
back into his compartment, but stood ready to pop out again on the least
encouragement. In the meantime he was pleased to shake a friendly foot at
Mr. Kirkwood, thrusting that member out through the half-open door.
Only the timely departure of the train, compelling him to rejoin Dorothy at
once, if at all, prevented the American from adding murder to the already
noteworthy catalogue of his high crimes and misdemeanors.
Their simple meal, consumed to the ultimate drop and crumb while the
Dunkerque train meandered serenely through a sunny, smiling Flemish
countryside, somewhat revived their jaded spirits. After all, they were
young, enviably dowered with youth's exuberant elasticity of mood; the
world was bright in the dawning, the night had fled leaving naught but an
evil memory; best of all things, they were together: tacitly they were
agreed that somehow the future would take care of itself and all be well
For a time they laughed and chattered, pretending that the present held no
cares or troubles; but soon the girl, nestling her head in a corner of the
dingy cushions, was smiling ever more drowsily on Kirkwood; and presently
she slept in good earnest, the warm blood ebbing and flowing beneath
the exquisite texture of her cheeks, the ghost of an unconscious smile
quivering about the sensitive scarlet mouth, the breeze through the open
window at her side wantoning at will in the sunlit witchery of her hair.
And Kirkwood, worn with sleepless watching, dwelt in longing upon the dear
innocent allure of her until the ache in his heart had grown well-nigh
insupportable; then instinctively turned his gaze upwards, searching his
heart, reading the faith and desire of it, so that at length knowledge and
understanding came to him, of his weakness and strength and the clean love
that he bore for her, and gladdened he sat dreaming in waking the same
clear dreams that modeled her unconscious lips secretly for laughter and
the joy of living.
When Dunkerque halted their progress, they were obliged to alight and
change cars,--Hobbs a discreetly sinister shadow at the end of the
By schedule they were to arrive in Calais about the middle of the forenoon,
with a wait of three hours to be bridged before the departure of the Dover
packet. That would be an anxious time; the prospect of it rendered both
Dorothy and Kirkwood doubly anxious throughout this final stage of their
flight. In three hours anything could happen, or be brought about. Neither
could forget that it was quite within the bounds of possibilities for
Calendar to be awaiting them in Calais. Presuming that Hobbs had been acute
enough to guess their plans and advise his employer by telegraph, the
latter could readily have anticipated their arrival, whether by sea in the
brigantine, or by land, taking the direct route via Brussels and Lille. If
such proved to be the case, it were scarcely sensible to count upon the
arch-adventurer contenting himself with a waiting rôle like Hobbs'.
With such unhappy apprehensions for a stimulant, between them the man and
the girl contrived a make-shift counter-stratagem; or it were more accurate
to say that Kirkwood proposed it, while Dorothy rejected, disputed, and
at length accepted it, albeit with sad misgivings. For it involved a
separation that might not prove temporary.
Together they could never escape the surveillance of Mr. Hobbs; parted, he
would be obliged to follow one or the other. The task of misleading the
_Alethea's_ mate, Kirkwood undertook, delegating to the girl the duty of
escaping when he could provide her the opportunity, of keeping under
cover until the hour of sailing, and then proceeding to England, with the
gladstone bag, alone if Kirkwood was unable, or thought it inadvisable, to
join her on the boat.
In furtherance of this design, a majority of the girl's belongings were
transferred from her traveling bag to Kirkwood's, the gladstone taking
their place; and the young man provided her with voluminous instructions, a
revolver which she did not know how to handle and declared she would never
use for any consideration, and enough money to pay for her accommodation at
the Terminus Hôtel, near the pier, and for two passages to London. It was
agreed that she should secure the steamer booking, lest Kirkwood be delayed
until the last moment.
These arrangements concluded, the pair of blessed idiots sat steeped in
melancholy silence, avoiding each other's eyes, until the train drew in at
the Gare Centrale, Calais.
In profound silence, too, they left their compartment and passed through
the station, into the quiet, sun-drenched streets of the seaport,--Hobbs
hovering solicitously in the offing.
Without comment or visible relief of mind they were aware that their fears
had been without apparent foundation; they saw no sign of Calendar, Stryker
or Mulready. The circumstance, however, counted for nothing; one or all of
the adventurers might arrive in Calais at any minute.
Momentarily more miserable as the time of parting drew nearer, dumb with
unhappiness, they turned aside from the main thoroughfares of the city,
leaving the business section, and gained the sleepier side streets,
bordered by the residences of the proletariat, where for blocks none but
children were to be seen, and of them but few--quaint, sober little bodies
playing almost noiselessly in their dooryards.
At length Kirkwood spoke.
"Let's make it the corner," he said, without looking at the girl. "It's a
short block to the next street. You hurry to the Terminus and lock yourself
in your room. Have the management book both passages; don't run the risk of
going to the pier yourself. I'll make things interesting for Mr. Hobbs, and
join you as soon as I can, _if_ I can."
"You must," replied the girl. "I shan't go without you."
"But, Dor--Miss Calendar!" he exclaimed, aghast.
"I don't care--I know I agreed," she declared mutinously. "But I won't--I
can't. Remember I shall wait for you."
"If you have to stay, it will be because there's danger--won't it? And
what would you think of me if I deserted you then, af-after all y-you've
done?... Please don't waste time arguing. Whether you come at one to-day,
to-morrow, or a week from to-morrow, I shall be waiting.... You may be
They had turned the corner, walking slowly, side by side; Hobbs, for the
first time caught off his guard, had dropped behind more than half a long
block. But now Kirkwood's quick sidelong glance discovered the mate in the
act of taking alarm and quickening his pace. None the less the American was
at the time barely conscious of anything other than a wholly unexpected
furtive pressure of the girl's gloved fingers on his own.
"Good-by," she whispered.
He caught at her hand, protesting. "Dorothy--!"
"Good-by," she repeated breathlessly, with a queer little catch in her
voice. "God be with you, Philip, and--and send you safely back to me...."
And she was running away.
Dumfounded with dismay, seeing in a flash how all his plans might be set at
naught by this her unforeseen insubordination, he took a step or two after
her; but she was fleet of foot, and, remembering Hobbs, he halted.
By this time the mate, too, was running; Kirkwood could hear the heavy
pounding of his clumsy feet. Already Dorothy had almost gained the farther
corner; as she whisked round it with a flutter of skirts, Kirkwood dodged
hastily behind a gate-post. A thought later, Hobbs appeared, head down,
chest out, eyes straining for sight of his quarry, pelting along for dear
As, rounding the corner, he stretched out in swifter stride, Kirkwood was
inspired to put a spoke in his wheel; and a foot thrust suddenly out from
behind the gate-post accomplished his purpose with more success than he
had dared anticipate. Stumbling, the mate plunged headlong, arms and legs
a-sprawl; and the momentum of his pace, though checked, carried him along
the sidewalk, face downwards, a full yard ere he could stay himself.
Kirkwood stepped out of the gateway and sheered off as Hobbs picked
himself up; something which he did rather slowly, as if in a daze, without
comprehension of the cause of his misfortune. And for a moment he stood
pulling his wits together and swaying as though on the point of resuming
his rudely interrupted chase; when the noise of Kirkwood's heels brought
him about face in a twinkling.
"Ow, it's you, eh!" he snarled in a temper as vicious as his countenance;
and both of these were much the worse for wear and tear.
"Myself," admitted Kirkwood fairly; and then, in a gleam of humor: "Weren't
you looking for me?"
His rage seemed to take the little Cockney and shake him by the throat; he
trembled from head to foot, his face shockingly congested, and spat out
dust and fragments of lurid blasphemy like an infuriated cat.
Of a sudden, "W'ere's the gel?" he sputtered thickly as his quick shifting
eyes for the first time noted Dorothy's absence.
"Miss Calendar has other business--none with you. I've taken the liberty of
stopping you because I have a word or two--"
"Ow, you 'ave, 'ave you? Gawd strike me blind, but I've a word for you,
too!... 'And over that bag--and look nippy, or I'll myke you pye for w'at
you've done to me ... I'll myke you pye!" he iterated hoarsely, edging
closer. "'And it over or--"
"You've got another guess--" Kirkwood began, but saved his breath in
deference to an imperative demand on him for instant defensive action.
To some extent he had underestimated the brute courage of the fellow, the
violent, desperate courage that is distilled of anger in men of his kind.
Despising him, deeming him incapable of any overt act of villainy, Kirkwood
had been a little less wary than he would have been with Calendar or
Mulready. Hobbs had seemed more of the craven type which Stryker graced so
conspicuously. But now the American was to be taught discrimination, to
learn that if Stryker's nature was like a snake's for low cunning and
deviousness, Hobbs' soul was the soul of a viper.
Almost imperceptibly he had advanced upon Kirkwood; almost insensibly his
right hand had moved toward his chest; now, with a movement marvelously
deft, it had slipped in and out of his breast pocket. And a six-inch blade
of tarnished steel was winging toward Kirkwood's throat with the speed of
Instinctively he stepped back; as instinctively he guarded with his right
forearm, lifting the hand that held the satchel. The knife, catching in his
sleeve, scratched the arm beneath painfully, and simultaneously was twisted
from the mate's grasp, while in his surprise Kirkwood's grip on the
bag-handle relaxed. It was torn forcibly from his fingers just as he
received a heavy blow on his chest from the mate's fist. He staggered back.
By the time he had recovered from the shock, Hobbs was a score of feet
away, the satchel tucked under his arm, his body bent almost double,
running like a jack-rabbit. Ere Kirkwood could get under way, in pursuit,
the mate had dodged out of sight round the corner. When the American caught
sight of him again, he was far down the block, and bettering his pace with
He was approaching, also, some six or eight good citizens of Calais, men of
the laboring class, at a guess. Their attention attracted by his frantic
flight, they stopped to wonder. One or two moved as though to intercept
him, and he doubled out into the middle of the street with the quickness of
thought; an instant later he shot round another corner and disappeared, the
natives streaming after in hot chase, electrified by the inspiring strains
of "Stop, thief!"--or its French equivalent.
Kirkwood, cheering them on with the same wild cry, followed to the farther
street; and there paused, so winded and weak with laughter that he was fain
to catch at a fence picket for support. Standing thus he saw other denizens
of Calais spring as if from the ground miraculously to swell the hue and
cry; and a dumpling of a gendarme materialized from nowhere at all, to fall
in behind the rabble, waving his sword above his head and screaming at the
top of his lungs, the while his fat legs twinkled for all the world like
thick sausage links marvelously animated.
The mob straggled round yet another corner and was gone; its clamor
diminished on the still Spring air; and Kirkwood, recovering, abandoned
Mr. Hobbs to the justice of the high gods and the French system of
jurisprudence (at least, he hoped the latter would take an interest in the
case, if haply Hobbs were laid by the heels), and went his way rejoicing.
As for the scratch on his arm, it was nothing, as he presently demonstrated
to his complete satisfaction in the seclusion of a chance-sent fiacre.
Kirkwood, commissioning it to drive him to the American Consulate, made
his diagnosis _en route_; wound a handkerchief round the negligible wound,
rolled down his sleeve, and forgot it altogether in the joys of picturing
to himself Hobbs in the act of opening the satchel in expectation of
finding therein the gladstone bag.
At the consulate door he paid off the driver and dismissed him; the fiacre
had served his purpose, and he could find his way to the Terminus Hôtel at
infinitely less expense. He had a considerably harder task before him as
he ascended the steps to the consular doorway, knocked and made known the
nature of his errand.
No malicious destiny could have timed the hour of his call more appositely;
the consul was at home and at the disposal of his fellow-citizens--within
In the course of thirty minutes or so Kirkwood emerged with dignity from
the consulate, his face crimson to the hair, his soul smarting with
shame and humiliation; and left an amused official representative of his
country's government with the impression of having been entertained to the
point of ennui by an exceptionally clumsy but pertinacious liar.
For the better part of the succeeding hour Kirkwood circumnavigated the
neighborhood of the steamer pier and the Terminus Hôtel, striving to render
himself as inconspicuous as he felt insignificant, and keenly on the
alert for any sign or news of Hobbs. In this pursuit he was pleasantly
At noon precisely, his suspense grown too onerous for his strength of will,
throwing caution and their understanding to the winds, he walked boldly
into the Terminus, and inquired for Miss Calendar.
The assurance he received that she was in safety under its roof did not
deter him from sending up his name and asking her to receive him in the
public lounge; he required the testimony of his senses to convince him that
no harm had come to her in the long hour and a half that had elapsed since
Woman-like, she kept him waiting. Alone in the public rooms of the hotel,
he suffered excruciating torments. How was he to know that Calendar had not
arrived and found his way to her?
When at length she appeared on the threshold of the apartment, bringing
with her the traveling bag and looking wonderfully the better for her
ninety minutes of complete repose and privacy, the relief he experienced
was so intense that he remained transfixed in the middle of the floor,
momentarily able neither to speak nor to move.
On her part, so fagged and distraught did he seem, that at sight of his
care-worn countenance she hurried to him with outstretched, compassionate
hands and a low pitiful cry of concern, forgetful entirely of that which he
himself had forgotten--the emotion she had betrayed on parting.
"Oh, nothing wrong," he hastened to reassure her, with a sorry ghost of his
familiar grin; "only I have lost Hobbs and the satchel with your things;
and there's no sign yet of Mr. Calendar. We can feel pretty comfortable
now, and--and I thought it time we had something like a meal."
The narrative of his adventure which he delivered over their _déjeuner à
la fourchette_ contained no mention either of his rebuff at the American
Consulate or the scratch he had sustained during Hobbs' murderous assault;
the one could not concern her, the other would seem but a bid for her
sympathy. He counted it a fortunate thing that the mate's knife had been
keen enough to penetrate the cloth of his sleeve without tearing it; the
slit it had left was barely noticeable. And he purposely diverted the girl
with flashes of humorous description, so that they discussed both meal and
episode in a mood of wholesome merriment.
It was concluded, all too soon for the taste of either, by the waiter's
announcement that the steamer was on the point of sailing.
Outwardly composed, inwardly quaking, they boarded the packet, meeting with
no misadventure whatever--if we are to except the circumstance that, when
the restaurant bill was settled and the girl had punctiliously surrendered
his change with the tickets, Kirkwood found himself in possession of
precisely one franc and twenty centimes.
He groaned in spirit to think how differently he might have been fixed, had
he not in his infatuated spirit of honesty been so anxious to give Calendar
more than ample value for his money!
An inexorable anxiety held them both near the gangway until it was cast off
and the boat began to draw away from the pier. Then, and not till then, did
an unimpressive, small figure of a man detach itself from the shield of a
pile of luggage and advance to the pier-head. No second glance was
needed to identify Mr. Hobbs; and until the perspective dwarfed him
indistinguishably, he was to be seen, alternately waving Kirkwood ironic
farewell and blowing violent kisses to Miss Calendar from the tips of his
So he had escaped arrest....
At first by turns indignant and relieved to realize that thereafter they
were to move in scenes in which his hateful shadow would not form an
essentially component part, subsequently Kirkwood fell a prey to prophetic
terrors. It was not alone fear of retribution that had induced Hobbs to
relinquish his persecution--or so Kirkwood became convinced; if the mate's
calculation had allowed for them the least fraction of a chance to escape
apprehension on the farther shores of the Channel, nor fears nor threats
would have prevented him from sailing with the fugitives.... Far from
having left danger behind them on the Continent, Kirkwood believed in his
secret heart that they were but flying to encounter it beneath the smoky
pall of London.
ROGUES AND VAGABONDS
A westering sun striking down through the drab exhalations of ten-thousand
sooty chimney-pots, tinted the atmosphere with the hue of copper. The
glance that wandered purposelessly out through the carriage windows,
recoiled, repelled by the endless dreary vista of the Surrey Side's
unnumbered roofs; or, probing instantaneously the hopeless depths of some
grim narrow thoroughfare fleetingly disclosed, as the evening boat-train
from Dover swung on toward Charing Cross, its trucks level with the eaves
of Southwark's dwellings, was saddened by the thought that in all the world
squalor such as this should obtain and flourish unrelieved.
For perhaps the tenth time in the course of the journey Kirkwood withdrew
his gaze from the window and turned to the girl, a question ready framed
upon his lips.
"Are you quite sure--" he began; and then, alive to the clear and
penetrating perception in the brown eyes that smiled into his from under
their level brows, he stammered and left the query uncompleted.
Continuing to regard him steadily and smilingly, Dorothy shook her head in
playful denial and protest. "Do you know," she commented, "that this is
about the fifth repetition of that identical question within the last
"How do you know what I meant to say?" he demanded, staring.
"I can see it in your eyes. Besides, you've talked and thought of nothing
else since we left the boat. Won't you believe me, please, when I say
there's absolutely not a soul in London to whom I could go and ask for
shelter? I don't think it's very nice of you to be so openly anxious to get
rid of me."
This latter was so essentially undeserved and so artlessly insincere, that
he must needs, of course, treat it with all seriousness.
"That isn't fair, Miss Calendar. Really it's not."
"What am I to think? I've told you any number of times that it's only an
hour's ride on to Chiltern, where the Pyrfords will be glad to take me in.
You may depend upon it,--by eight to-night, at the latest, you'll have me
off your hands,--the drag and worry that I've been ever since--"
"Don't!" he pleaded vehemently. "Please!... You _know_ it isn't that. I
_don't_ want you off my hands, ever.... That is to say, I--ah--" Here
he was smitten with a dumbness, and sat, aghast at the enormity of his
blunder, entreating her forgiveness with eyes that, very likely, pleaded
his cause more eloquently than he guessed.
"I mean," he floundered on presently, in the fatuous belief that he would
this time be able to control both mind and tongue, "_what_ I mean is I'd be
glad to go on serving you in any way I might, to the end of time, if you'd
He left the declaration inconclusive--a stroke of diplomacy that would have
graced an infinitely more adept wooer. But he used it all unconsciously. "O
Lord!" he groaned in spirit. "Worse and more of it! Why in thunder can't I
say the right thing _right_?"
Egotistically absorbed by the problem thus formulated, he was heedless of
her failure to respond, and remained pensively preoccupied until roused by
the grinding and jolting of the train, as it slowed to a halt preparatory
to crossing the bridge.
Then he sought to read his answer in the eyes of Dorothy. But she was
looking away, staring thoughtfully out over the billowing sea of roofs
that merged illusively into the haze long ere it reached the horizon; and
Kirkwood could see the pulsing of the warm blood in her throat and cheeks;
and the glamorous light that leaped and waned in her eyes, as the ruddy
evening sunlight warmed them, was something any man might be glad to live
for and die for.... And he saw that she had understood, had grasped the
thread of meaning that ran through the clumsy fabric of his halting speech
and his sudden silences.
She had understood without resentment!
While, incredulous, he wrestled with the wonder of this fond discovery,
she grew conscious of his gaze, and turned her head to meet it with one
fearless and sweet, if troubled.
"Dear Mr. Kirkwood," she said gently, bending forward as if to read between
the lines anxiety had graven on his countenance, "won't you tell me,
please, what it can be that so worries you? Is it possible that you still
have a fear of my father? But don't you know that he can do nothing
now--now that we're safe? We have only to take a cab to Paddington Station,
"You mustn't underestimate the resource and ability of Mr. Calendar," he
told her gloomily; "we've got a chance--no more. It wasn't...." He shut his
teeth on his unruly tongue--too late.
Woman-quick she caught him up. "It wasn't that? Then what was it that
worried you? If it's something that affects me, is it kind and right of you
not to tell me?"
"It--it affects us both," he conceded drearily. "I--I don't--"
The wretched embarrassment of the confession befogged his wits; he felt
unable to frame the words. He appealed speechlessly for tolerance, with a
face utterly woebegone and eyes piteous.
The train began to move slowly across the Thames to Charing Cross.
Mercilessly the girl persisted. "We've only a minute more. Surely you can
In exasperation he interrupted almost rudely. "It's only this: I--I'm
"Strapped?" She knitted her brows over this fresh specimen of American
"Flat strapped--busted--broke--on my uppers--down and out," he reeled off
synonyms without a smile. "I haven't enough money to pay cab-fare across
"Oh!" she interpolated, enlightened.
"--to say nothing of taking us to Chiltern. I couldn't buy you a glass of
water if you were thirsty. There isn't a soul on earth, within hail, who
would trust me with a quarter--I mean a shilling--across London Bridge. I'm
the original Luckless Wonder and the only genuine Jonah extant."
With a face the hue of fire, he cocked his eyebrows askew and attempted
to laugh unconcernedly to hide his bitter shame. "I've led you out of
the fryingpan into the fire, and I don't know what to do! Please call me
And in a single instant all that he had consistently tried to avoid doing,
had been irretrievably done; if, with dawning comprehension, dismay
flickered in her eyes--such dismay as such a confession can rouse only in
one who, like Dorothy Calendar, has never known the want of a penny--it
was swiftly driven out to make place for the truest and most gracious and
"Oh, poor Mr. Kirkwood! And it's all because of me! You've beggared
"Not precisely; I was beggared to begin with." He hastened to disclaim the
extravagant generosity of which she accused him. "I had only three or four
pounds to my name that night we met.... I haven't told you--I--"
"You've told me nothing, nothing whatever about yourself," she said
"I didn't want to bother you with my troubles; I tried not to talk about
myself.... You knew I was an American, but I'm worse than that; I'm a
Californian--from San Francisco." He tried unsuccessfully to make light of
it. "I told you I was the Luckless Wonder; if I'd ever had any luck I would
have stored a little money away. As it was, I lived on my income, left
my principal in 'Frisco; and when the earthquake came, it wiped me out
"And you were going home that night we made you miss your steamer!"
"It was my own fault, and I'm glad this blessed minute that I did miss it.
Nice sort I'd have been, to go off and leave you at the mercy--"
"Please! I want to think, I'm trying to remember how much you've gone
"Precisely what I don't want you to do. Anyway, I did nothing more than any
other fellow would've! Please don't give me credit that I don't deserve."
But she was not listening; and a pause fell, while the train crawled warily
over the trestle, as if in fear of the foul, muddy flood below.
"And there's no way I can repay you...."
"There's nothing to be repaid," he contended stoutly.
She clasped her hands and let them fall gently in her lap. "I've not
a farthing in the world!... I never dreamed.... I'm so sorry, Mr.
Kirkwood--terribly, terribly sorry!... But what can we do? I can't consent
to be a burden--"
"But you're not! You're the one thing that ..." He swerved sharply, at an
abrupt tangent. "There's one thing we can do, of course."
She looked up inquiringly.
"Craven Street is just round the corner."
"I mean we must go to Mrs. Hallam's house, first off.... It's too
late now,--after five, else we could deposit the jewels in some bank.
Since--since they are no longer yours, the only thing, and the proper thing
to do is to place them in safety or in the hands of their owner. If you
take them directly to young Hallam, your hands will be clear.... And--I
never did such a thing in my life, Miss Calendar; but if he's got a spark
of gratitude in his make-up, I ought to be able to--er--to borrow a pound
or so of him."
"Do you think so?" She shook her head in doubt. "I don't know; I know so
little of such things.... You are right; we must take him the jewels,
but..." Her voice trailed off into a sigh of profound perturbation.
He dared not meet her look.
Beneath his wandering gaze a County Council steam-boat darted swiftly
down-stream from Charing Cross pier, in the shadow of the railway bridge.
It seemed curious to reflect that from that very floating pier he had
started first upon his quest of the girl beside him, only--he had to
count--three nights ago! Three days and three nights! Altogether incredible
seemed the transformation they had wrought in the complexion of the world.
Yet nothing material was changed.... He lifted his eyes.
Beyond the river rose the Embankment, crawling with traffic, backed by the
green of the gardens and the shimmering walls of glass and stone of the
great hotels, their windows glowing weirdly golden in the late sunlight.
A little down-stream Cleopatra's Needle rose, sadly the worse for London
smoke, flanked by its couchant sphinxes, wearing a nimbus of circling,
sweeping, swooping, wheeling gulls. Farther down, from the foot of that
magnificent pile, Somerset House, Waterloo Bridge sprang over-stream in
its graceful arch.... All as of yesterday; yet all changed. Why? Because a
woman had entered into his life; because he had learned the lesson of love
and had looked into the bright face of Romance....
With a jar the train started and began to move more swiftly.
Kirkwood lifted the traveling bag to his knees.
"Don't forget," he said with some difficulty, "you're to stick by me,
whatever happens. You mustn't desert me."
"You _know_," the girl reproved him.
"I know; but there must be no misunderstanding.... Don't worry; we'll win
out yet, I've a plan."
_Splendide mendax_! He had not the glimmering of a plan.
The engine panting, the train drew in beneath the vast sounding dome of the
station, to an accompaniment of dull thunderings; and stopped finally.
Kirkwood got out, not without a qualm of regret at leaving the compartment;
therein, at least, they had some title to consideration, by virtue of their
tickets; now they were utterly vagabondish, penniless adventurers.
The girl joined him. Slowly, elbow to elbow, the treasure bag between
them, they made their way down toward the gates, atoms in a tide-rip
of humanity,--two streams of passengers meeting on the narrow strip of
platform, the one making for the streets, the other for the suburbs.
Hurried and jostled, the girl clinging tightly to his arm lest they be
separated in the crush, they came to the ticket-wicket; beyond the barrier
surged a sea of hats--shining "toppers," dignified and upstanding, the
outward and visible manifestation of the sturdy, stodgy British spirit of
respectability; "bowlers" round and sleek and humble; shapeless caps with
cloth visors, manufactured of outrageous plaids; flower-like miracles of
millinery from Bond Street; strangely plumed monstrosities from Petticoat
Lane and Mile End Road. Beneath any one of these might lurk the maleficent
brain, the spying eyes of Calendar or one of his creatures; beneath all of
them that he encountered, Kirkwood peered in fearful inquiry.
Yet, when they had passed unhindered the ordeal of the wickets, had run
the gantlet of those thousand eyes without lighting in any pair a spark of
recognition, he began to bear himself with more assurance, to be sensible
to a grateful glow of hope. Perhaps Hobbs' telegram had not reached its
destination, for unquestionably the mate would have wired his chief;
perhaps some accident had befallen the conspirators; perhaps the police had
apprehended them.... No matter how, one hoped against hope that they had
been thrown off the trail.
And indeed it seemed as if they must have been misguided in some
providential manner. On the other hand, it would be the crassest of
indiscretions to linger about the place an instant longer than absolutely
Outside the building, however, they paused perforce, undergoing the
cross-fire of the congregated cabbies. It being the first time that he
had ever felt called upon to leave the station afoot, Kirkwood cast about
irresolutely, seeking the sidewalk leading to the Strand.
Abruptly he caught the girl by the arm and unceremoniously hurried her
toward a waiting hansom.
"Quick!" he begged her. "Jump right in--not an instant to spare.--"
She nodded brightly, lips firm with courage, eyes shining.
"Yes." Kirkwood glanced back over his shoulder. "He hasn't seen us yet.
They've just driven up. Stryker's with him. They're getting down." And to
himself, "Oh, the devil!" cried the panic-stricken young man.
He drew back to let the girl precede him into the cab; at the same time
he kept an eye on Calendar, whose conveyance stood half the length of the
The fat adventurer had finished paying off the driver, standing on the deck
of the hansom. Stryker was already out, towering above the mass of people,
and glaring about him with his hawk-keen vision. Calendar had started to
alight, his foot was leaving the step when Stryker's glance singled out
their quarry. Instantly he turned and spoke to his confederate. Calendar
wheeled like a flash, peering eagerly in the direction indicated by the
captain's index finger, then, snapping instructions to his driver, threw
himself heavily back on the seat. Stryker, awkward on his land-legs,
stumbled and fell in an ill-calculated attempt to hoist himself hastily
back into the vehicle.
To the delay thus occasioned alone Kirkwood and Dorothy owed a respite of
freedom. Their hansom was already swinging down toward the great gates of
the yard, the American standing to make the driver comprehend the necessity
for using the utmost speed in reaching the Craven Street address. The man
proved both intelligent and obliging; Kirkwood had barely time to drop down
beside the girl, ere the cab was swinging out into the Strand, to the peril
of the toes belonging to a number of righteously indignant pedestrians.
"Good boy!" commented Kirkwood cheerfully. "That's the greatest comfort of
all London, the surprising intellectual strength the average cabby displays
when you promise him a tip.... Great Heavens!" he cried, reading the girl's
dismayed expression. "A tip! I never thought--!" His face lengthened
dismally, his eyebrows working awry. "Now we are in for it!"
Dorothy said nothing.
He turned in the seat, twisting his neck to peep through the small rear
window. "I don't see their cab," he announced. "But of course they're after
us. However, Craven Street's just round the corner; if we get there
first, I don't fancy Freddie Hallam will have a cordial reception for our
pursuers. They must've been on watch at Cannon Street, and finding we were
not coming in that way--of course they were expecting us because of Hobbs'
wire--they took cab for Charing Cross. Lucky for us.... Or is it lucky?" he
added doubtfully, to himself.
The hansom whipped round the corner into Craven Street. Kirkwood sprang up,
grasping the treasure bag, ready to jump the instant they pulled in toward
Mrs. Hallam's dwelling. But as they drew near upon the address he drew back
with an exclamation of amazement.
The house was closed, showing a blank face to the street--blinds drawn
close down in the windows, area gate padlocked, an estate-agent's board
projecting from above the doorway, advertising the property "To be let,
Kirkwood looked back, craning his neck round the side of the cab. At the
moment another hansom was breaking through the rank of humanity on the
Strand crossing. He saw one or two figures leap desperately from beneath
the horse's hoofs. Then the cab shot out swiftly down the street.
The American stood up again, catching the cabby's eye.
"Drive on!" he cried excitedly. "Don't stop--drive as fast as you dare!"
"W'ere to, sir?"
"See that cab behind? Don't let it catch us--shake it off, lose it somehow,
but for the love of Heaven don't let it catch us! I'll make it worth your
while. Do you understand?"
"Yes, sir!" The driver looked briefly over his shoulder and lifted his
whip. "Don't worry, sir," he cried, entering into the spirit of the game
with gratifying zest. "Shan't let 'em over'aul you, sir. Mind your 'ead!"
And as Kirkwood ducked, the whip-lash shot out over the roof with a crack
like the report of a pistol. Startled, the horse leaped indignantly
forward. Momentarily the cab seemed to leave the ground, then settled
down to a pace that carried them round the Avenue Theatre and across
Northumberland Avenue into Whitehall Place apparently on a single wheel.
A glance behind showed Kirkwood that already they had gained, the pursuing
hansom having lost ground through greater caution in crossing the
"Good little horse!" he applauded.
A moment later he was indorsing without reserve the generalship of their
cabby; the quick westward turn that took them into Whitehall, over across
from the Horse Guards, likewise placed them in a pocket of traffic; a
practically impregnable press of vehicles closed in behind them ere
Calendar's conveyance could follow out of the side street.
That the same conditions, but slightly modified, hemmed them in ahead, went
for nothing in Kirkwood's estimation.
"Good driver!" he approved heartily. "He's got a head on his shoulders!"
The girl found her voice. "How," she demanded in a breath, face blank with
consternation, "how did you dare?"
"Dare?" he echoed exultantly; and in his veins excitement was running like
liquid fire. "What wouldn't I dare for you, Dorothy?"
"What have you not?" she amended softly, adding with a shade of timidity:
The long lashes swept up from her cheeks, like clouds revealing stars,
unmasking eyes radiant and brave to meet his own; then they fell, even as
her lips drooped with disappointment. And she sighed.... For he was not
looking. Man-like, hot with the ardor of the chase, he was deaf and blind
to all else.
She saw that he had not even heard. Twice within the day she had forgotten
herself, had overstepped the rigid bounds of her breeding in using his
Christian name. And twice he had been oblivious to that token of their
maturing understanding. So she sighed, and sighing, smiled again; resting
an elbow on the window-sill and flattening one small gloved hand against
the frame for a brace against the jouncing of the hansom. It swept on with
unabated speed, up-stream beside the tawny reaches of the river; and for
a time there was no speech between them, the while the girl lost
consciousness of self and her most imminent peril, surrendering her being
to the lingering sweetness of her long, dear thoughts....
"I've got a scheme!" Kirkwood declared so explosively that she caught her
breath with the surprise of it. "There's the Pless; they know me there, and
my credit's good. When we shake them off, we can have the cabby take us to
the hotel. I'll register and borrow from the management enough to pay our
way to Chiltern and the tolls for a cable to New York. I've a friend or two
over home who wouldn't let me want for a few miserable pounds.... So you
see," he explained boyishly, "we're at the end of our troubles already!"
She said something inaudible, holding her face averted. He bent nearer to
her, wondering. "I didn't understand," he suggested.
Still looking from him, "I said you were very good to me," she said in a
"Dorothy!" Without his knowledge or intention before the fact, as
instinctively as he made use of her given name, intimately, his strong
fingers dropped and closed upon the little hand that lay beside him. "What
_is_ the matter, dear?" He leaned still farther forward to peer into her
face, till glance met glance in the ending and his racing pulses tightened
with sheer delight of the humid happiness in her glistening eyes. "Dorothy,
child, don't worry so. No harm shall come to you. It's all working out--all
working out _right_. Only have a little faith in me, and I'll _make_
everything work out right, Dorothy."
Gently she freed her fingers. "I wasn't," she told him in a voice that
quivered between laughter and tears, "I wasn't worrying. I was ... You
wouldn't understand. Don't be afraid I shall break down or--or anything."
"I shan't," he reassured her; "I know you're not that sort. Besides,
you'd have no excuse. We're moving along famously. That cabby knows his
In fact that gentleman was minute by minute demonstrating his peculiar
fitness for the task he had so cheerfully undertaken. The superior
horsemanship of the London hackney cabman needs no exploitation, and he
in whose hands rested the fate of the Calendar treasure was peer of his
compeers. He was instant to advantage himself of every opening to forward
his pliant craft, quick to foresee the fortunes of the way and govern
Estimating with practised eye the precise moment when the police supervisor
of traffic at the junction of Parliament and Bridge Streets, would see
fit to declare a temporary blockade, he so managed that his was the last
vehicle to pass ere the official wand, to ignore which involves a forfeited
license, was lifted; and indeed, so close was his calculation that he
escaped only with a scowl and word of warning from the bobby. A matter of
no importance whatever, since his end was gained and the pursuing cab had
been shut off by the blockade.
In Calendar's driver, however, he had an adversary of abilities by no means
to be despised. Precisely how the man contrived it, is a question; that he
made a detour by way of Derby Street is not improbable, unpleasant as it
may have been for Stryker and Calendar to find themselves in such close
proximity to "the Yard." At all events, he evaded the block, and hardly
had the chase swung across Bridge Street, than the pursuer was nimbly
clattering in its wake.
Past the Houses of Parliament, through Old Palace Yard, with the Abbey on
their left, they swung away into Abingdon Street, whence suddenly they
dived into the maze of backways, great and mean, which lies to the south of
Victoria. Doubling and twisting, now this way, now that, the driver tooled
them through the intricate heart of this labyrinth, leading the pursuers
a dance that Kirkwood thought calculated to dishearten and shake off the
pursuit in the first five minutes. Yet always, peering back through the
little peephole, he saw Calendar's cab pelting doggedly in their rear--a
hundred yards behind, no more, no less, hanging on with indomitable grit
By degrees they drew westwards, threading Pimlico, into Chelsea--once
dashing briefly down the Grosvenor Road, the Thames a tawny flood beyond
the river wall.
Children cheered them on, and policemen turned to stare, doubting whether
they should interfere. Minutes rolled into tens, measuring out an hour;
and still they hammered on, hunted and hunters, playing their game of
hare-and-hounds through the highways and byways of those staid and aged
In the leading cab there were few words spoken. Kirkwood and Dorothy alike
sat spellbound with the fascination of the game; if it is conceivable
that the fox enjoys his part in the day's sport, then they were enjoying
themselves. Now one spoke, now another--chiefly in the clipped phraseology,
of excitement. As--
Or, "We'll tire them out?"
"They can't catch us, can they, Philip?"
"Never in the world."
But he spoke with a confidence that he himself did not feel, for hope as
he would he could never see that the distance between the two had been
materially lessened or increased. Their horses seemed most evenly matched.
The sun was very low behind the houses of the Surrey Side when Kirkwood
became aware that their horse was flagging, though (as comparison
determined) no more so than the one behind.
In grave concern the young man raised his hand, thrusting open the trap
in the roof. Immediately the square of darkling sky was eclipsed by the
"You had better drive as directly as you can to the Hotel Pless," Kirkwood
called up. "I'm afraid it's no use pushing your horse like this."
"I'm sure of it, sir. 'E's a good 'oss, 'e is, but 'e carn't keep goin' for
hever, you know, sir."
"I know. You've done very well; you've done your best."
"Very good, sir. The Pless, you said, sir? Right."
The trap closed.
Two blocks farther, and their pace had so sensibly moderated that Kirkwood
was genuinely alarmed. The pursuing cabby was lashing his animal without
mercy, while, "It aren't no use my w'ippin' 'im, sir," dropped through the
trap. "'E's doing orl 'e can."
Despondent recklessness tightened Kirkwood's lips and kindled an unpleasant
light in his eyes. He touched his side pocket; Calendar's revolver was
still there.... Dorothy should win away clear, if--if he swung for it.
He bent forward with the traveling bag in his hands.
"What are you going to do?" The girl's voice was very tremulous.
"Stand a chance, take a losing hazard. Can you run? You're not too tired?"
"I can run--perhaps not far--a little way, at least."
"And will you do as I say?"
Her eyes met his, unwavering, bespeaking her implicit faith.
"We'll have to drop off in a minute. The horse won't last.... They're in
the same box. Well, I undertake to stand 'em off for a bit; you take the
bag and run for it. Just as soon as I can convince them, I'll follow, but
if there's any delay, you call the first cab you see and drive to the
Pless. I'll join you there."
He stood up, surveying the neighborhood. Behind him the girl lifted her
voice in protest.
"No, Philip, no!"
"You've promised," he said sternly, eyes ranging the street.
"I don't care; I won't leave you."
He shook his head in silent contradiction, frowning; but not frowning
because of the girl's mutiny. He was a little puzzled by a vague
impression, and was striving to pin it down for recognition; but was so
thoroughly bemused with fatigue and despair that only with great difficulty
could he force his faculties to logical reasoning, his memory to respond to
his call upon it.
The hansom was traversing a street in Old Brompton--a quaint, prim by-way
lined with dwellings singularly Old-Worldish, even for London. He seemed
to know it subjectively, to have retained a memory of it from another
existence: as the stage setting of a vivid dream, all forgotten, will
sometimes recur with peculiar and exasperating intensity, in broad
daylight. The houses, with their sloping, red-tiled roofs, unexpected
gables, spontaneous dormer windows, glass panes set in leaded frames, red
brick façades trimmed with green shutters and doorsteps of white stone,
each sitting back, sedate and self-sufficient, in its trim dooryard fenced
off from the public thoroughfare: all wore an aspect hauntingly familiar,
and yet strange.
A corner sign, remarked in passing, had named the spot "Aspen Villas";
though he felt he knew the sound of those syllables as well as he did
the name of the Pless, strive as he might he failed to make them convey
anything tangible to his intelligence. When had he heard of it? At what
time had his errant footsteps taken him through this curious survival of
Eighteenth Century London?
Not that it mattered when. It could have no possible bearing on the
emergency. He really gave it little thought; the mental processes recounted
were mostly subconscious, if none the less real. His objective attention
was wholly preoccupied with the knowledge that Calendar's cab was drawing
perilously near. And he was debating whether or not they should alight
at once and try to make a better pace afoot, when the decision was taken
wholly out of his hands.
Blindly staggering on, wilted with weariness, the horse stumbled in the
shafts and plunged forward on its knees. Quick as the driver was to pull it
up, with a cruel jerk of the bits, Kirkwood was caught unprepared; lurching
against the dashboard, he lost his footing, grasped frantically at the
unstable air, and went over, bringing up in a sitting position in the
gutter, with a solid shock that jarred his very teeth.
For a moment dazed he sat there blinking; by the time he got to his feet,
the girl stood beside him, questioning him with keen solicitude.
"No," he gasped; "not hurt--only surprised. Wait...."
Their cab had come to a complete standstill; Calendar's was no more than
twenty yards behind, and as Kirkwood caught sight of him the fat adventurer
was in the act of lifting himself ponderously out of the seat.
Incontinently the young man turned to the girl and forced the traveling-bag
into her hands.
"Run for it!" he begged her. "Don't stop to argue. You promised--run! I'll
"Philip!" she pleaded.
"Dorothy!" he cried in torment.
Perhaps it was his unquestionable distress that weakened her. Suddenly she
yielded--with whatever reason. He was only hazily aware of the swish of her
skirts behind him; he had no time to look round and see that she got away
safely. He had only eyes and thoughts for Calendar and Stryker.
They were both afoot, now, and running toward him, the one as awkward as
the other, but neither yielding a jot of their malignant purpose. He held
the picture of it oddly graphic in his memory for many a day thereafter:
Calendar making directly, for him, his heavy-featured face a dull red with
the exertion, his fat head dropped forward as if too heavy for his neck of
a bull, his small eyes bright with anger; Stryker shying off at a discreet
angle, evidently with the intention of devoting himself to the capture of
the girl; the two cabs with their dejected screws, at rest in the middle of
the quiet, twilit street. He seemed even to see himself, standing stockily
prepared, hands in his coat pockets, his own head inclined with a
suggestion of pugnacity.
To this mental photograph another succeeds, of the same scene an instant
later; all as it had been before, their relative positions unchanged, save
that Stryker and Calendar had come to a dead stop, and that Kirkwood's
right arm was lifted and extended, pointing at the captain.
So forgetful of self was he, that it required a moment's thought to
convince him that he was really responsible for the abrupt transformation.
Incredulously he realized that he had drawn Calendar's revolver and pulled
Stryker up short, in mid-stride, by the mute menace of it, as much as by
his hoarse cry of warning:
"Stryker--not another foot--"
With this there chimed in Dorothy's voice, ringing bell-clear from a little
Like a flash he wheeled, to add yet another picture to his mental gallery.
Perhaps two-score feet up the sidewalk a gate stood open; just outside it a
man of tall and slender figure, rigged out in a bizarre costume consisting
mainly of a flowered dressing-gown and slippers, was waiting in an attitude
of singular impassivity; within it, pausing with a foot lifted to the
doorstep, bag in hand, her head turned as she looked back, was Dorothy.
[Illustration: A costume consisting mainly of a flowered dressing-gown and
As he comprehended these essential details of the composition, the man in
the flowered dressing-gown raised a hand, beckoning to him in a manner as
imperative as his accompanying words.
"Kirkwood!" he saluted the young man in a clear and vibrant voice, "put
up that revolver and stop this foolishness." And, with a jerk of his
head towards the doorway, in which Dorothy now waited, hesitant: "Come,
Kirkwood choked on a laugh that was half a sob. "Brentwick!" he cried,
restoring the weapon to his pocket and running toward his friend. "Of all
"You may call it that," retorted the elder man with a fleeting smile as
Kirkwood slipped inside the dooryard. "Come," he said; "let's get into the
"But you said--I thought you went to Munich," stammered Kirkwood; and so
thoroughly impregnated was his mind with this understanding that it was
hard for him to adjust his perceptions to the truth.
"I was detained--by business," responded Brentwick briefly. His gaze, weary
and wistful behind his glasses, rested on the face of the girl on the
threshold of his home; and the faint, sensitive flush of her face deepened.
He stopped and honored her with a bow that, for all his fantastical attire,
would have graced a beau of an earlier decade. "Will you be pleased to
enter?" he suggested punctiliously. "My house, such as it is, is quite at
your disposal. And," he added, with a glance over his shoulder, "I fancy
that a word or two may presently be passed which you would hardly care to
Dorothy's hesitation was but transitory; Kirkwood was reassuring her with
a smile more like his wonted boyish grin than anything he had succeeded
in conjuring up throughout the day. Her own smile answered it, and with a
murmured word of gratitude and a little, half timid, half distant bow for
Brentwick, she passed on into the hallway.
Kirkwood lingered with his friend upon the door-stoop. Calendar, recovered
from his temporary consternation, was already at the gate, bending over
it, fat fingers fumbling with the latch, his round red face, lifted to the
house, darkly working with chagrin.
From his threshold, watching him with a slight contraction of the eyes,
Brentwick hailed him in tones of cloying courtesy.
"Do you wish to see me, sir?"
The fat adventurer faltered just within the gateway; then, with a truculent
swagger, "I want my daughter," he declared vociferously.
Brentwick peered mildly over his glasses, first at Calendar, then at
Kirkwood. His glance lingered a moment on the young man's honest eyes, and
swung back to Calendar.
"My good man," he said with sublime tolerance, "will you be pleased to take
yourself off--to the devil if you like? Or shall I take the trouble to
interest the police?"
He removed one fine and fragile hand from a pocket of the flowered
dressing-gown, long enough to jerk it significantly toward the nearer
Thunderstruck, Calendar glanced hastily in the indicated direction.
A blue-coated bobby was to be seen approaching with measured stride,
diffusing upon the still evening air an impression of ineffably capable
Calendar's fleshy lips parted and closed without a sound. They quivered.
Beneath them quivered his assortment of graduated chins. His heavy and
pendulous cheeks quivered, slowly empurpling with the dark tide of his
apoplectic wrath. The close-clipped thatch of his iron gray mustache, even,
seemed to bristle like hairs upon the neck of a maddened dog. Beneath him
his fat legs trembled, and indeed his whole huge carcass shook visibly, in
the stress of his restrained wrath.
Suddenly, overwhelmed, he banged the gate behind him and waddled off to
join the captain; who already, with praiseworthy native prudence, had
fallen back upon their cab.
From his coign of strategic advantage, the comfortable elevation of
his box, Kirkwood's cabby, whose huge enjoyment of the adventurers'
discomfiture had throughout been noisily demonstrative, entreated Calendar
with lifted forefinger, bland affability, and expressions of heartfelt
"Kebsir? 'Ave a kebsir, do! Try a ride be'ind a real 'orse, sir; don't you
go on wastin' time on 'im." A jerk of a derisive thumb singled out the
other cabman. "'E aren't pl'yin' you fair, sir; I knows 'im,--'e's a
hartful g'y deceiver, 'e is. Look at 'is 'orse,--w'ich it aren't; it's a
snyle, that's w'at it is. Tyke a father's hadvice, sir, and next time yer
fairest darter runs awye with the dook in disguise, chyse 'em in a real
kebsir, not a cheap imitashin.... Kebsir?... Garn, you 'ard-'arted--"
Here he swooped upwards in a dizzy flight of vituperation best unrecorded.
Calendar, beyond an absent-minded flirt of one hand by his ear, as who
should shoo away a buzzing insect, ignored him utterly.
Sullenly extracting money from his pocket, he paid off his driver, and in