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The Black Bag by Louis Joseph Vance

Part 6 out of 6

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company with Stryker, trudged in morose silence down the street.

Brentwick touched Kirkwood's arm and drew him into the house.



As the door closed, Kirkwood swung impulsively to Brentwick, with the
brief, uneven laugh of fine-drawn nerves.

"Good God, sir!" he cried. "You don't know--"

"I can surmise," interrupted the elder man shrewdly.

"You turned up in the nick of time, for all the world like--"

"Harlequin popping through a stage trap?"

"No!--an incarnation of the Providence that watches over children and

Brentwick dropped a calming hand upon his shoulder. "Your simile seems
singularly happy, Philip. Permit me to suggest that you join the child in
my study." He laughed quietly, with a slight nod toward an open door at the
end of the hallway. "For myself, I'll be with you in one moment."

A faint, indulgent smile lurking in the shadow of his white mustache, he
watched the young man wheel and dart through the doorway. "Young hearts!"
he commented inaudibly--and a trace sadly. "Youth!..."

Beyond the threshold of the study, Kirkwood paused, eager eyes searching
its somber shadows for a sign of Dorothy.

A long room and deep, it was lighted only by the circumscribed disk of
illumination thrown on the central desk by a shaded reading-lamp, and the
flickering glow of a grate-fire set beneath the mantel of a side-wall. At
the back, heavy velvet portières cloaked the recesses of two long windows,
closed jealously even against the twilight. Aside from the windows, doors
and chimney-piece, every foot of wall space was occupied by towering
bookcases or by shelves crowded to the limit of their capacity with an
amazing miscellany of objects of art, the fruit of years of patient and
discriminating collecting. An exotic and heady atmosphere, compounded of
the faint and intangible exhalations of these insentient things, fragrance
of sandalwood, myrrh and musk, reminiscent whiffs of half-forgotten
incense, seemed to intensify the impression of gloomy richness and

By the fireplace, a little to one side, stood Dorothy, one small foot
resting on the brass fender, her figure merging into the dusky background,
her delicate beauty gaining an effect of elusive and ethereal mystery in
the waning and waxing ruddy glow upflung from the bedded coals.

"Oh, Philip!" She turned swiftly to Kirkwood with extended hands and a low,
broken cry. "I'm _so_ glad...."

A trace of hysteria in her manner warned him, and he checked himself upon
the verge of a too dangerous tenderness. "There!" he said soothingly,
letting her hands rest gently in his palms while he led her to a chair. "We
can make ourselves easy now." She sat down and he released her hands with a
reluctance less evident than actual. "If ever I say another word against my

"Who," inquired the girl, lowering her voice, "who is the gentleman in the
flowered dressing-gown?"

"Brentwick--George Silvester Brentwick: an old friend. I've known him for
years,--ever since I came abroad. Curiously enough, however, this is the
first time I've ever been here. I called once, but he wasn't in,--a few
days ago,--the day we met. I thought the place looked familiar. Stupid of

"Philip," said the girl with a grave face but a shaking voice, "it was."
She laughed provokingly.... "It was so funny, Philip. I don't know why I
ran, when you told me to, but I did; and while I ran, I was conscious
of the front door, here, opening, and this tall man in the flowered
dressing-gown coming down to the gate as if it were the most ordinary thing
in the world for him to stroll out, dressed that way, in the evening. And
he opened the gate, and bowed, and said, ever so pleasantly, 'Won't you
come in, Miss Calendar?'--"

"He did!" exclaimed Kirkwood. "But how--?"

"How can I say?" she expostulated. "At all events, he seemed to know
me; and when he added something about calling you in, too--he said 'Mr.
Kirkwood '--I didn't hesitate."

"It's strange enough, surely--and fortunate. Bless his heart!" said

And, "Hum!" said Mr. Brentwick considerately, entering the study. He had
discarded the dressing-gown and was now in evening dress.

The girl rose. Kirkwood turned. "Mr. Brentwick--" he began.

But Brentwick begged his patience with an eloquent gesture. "Sir," he said,
somewhat austerely, "permit me to put a single question: Have you by any
chance paid your cabby?"

"Why--" faltered the younger man, with a flaming face. "I--why, no--that

The other quietly put his hand upon a bell-pull. A faint jingling sound was
at once audible, emanating from the basement.

"How much should you say you owe him?"

"I--I haven't a penny in the world!"

The shrewd eyes flashed their amusement into Kirkwood's. "Tut, tut!"
Brentwick chuckled. "Between gentlemen, my dear boy! Dear me! you are slow
to learn."

"I'll never be contented to sponge on my friends," explained Kirkwood in
deepest misery. "I can't tell when--"

"Tut, tut! How much did you say?"

"Ten shillings--or say twelve, would be about right," stammered the
American, swayed by conflicting emotions of gratitude and profound

A soft-footed butler, impassive as Fate, materialized mysteriously in the

"You rang, sir?" he interrupted frigidly.

"I rang, Wotton." His master selected a sovereign from his purse and handed
it to the servant. "For the cabby, Wotton."

"Yes sir." The butler swung automatically, on one heel.

"And Wotton!"


"If any one should ask for me, I'm not at home."

"Very good, sir."

"And if you should see a pair of disreputable scoundrels skulking, in the
neighborhood, one short and stout, the other tall and evidently a seafaring
man, let me know."

"Thank you, sir." A moment later the front door was heard to close.

Brentwick turned with a little bow to the girl. "My dear Miss Calendar," he
said, rubbing his thin, fine hands,--"I am old enough, I trust, to call you
such without offense,--please be seated."

Complying, the girl rewarded him with a radiant smile. Whereupon, striding
to the fireplace, their host turned his back to it, clasped his hands
behind him, and glowered benignly upon the two. "Ah!" he observed in
accents of extreme personal satisfaction. "Romance! Romance!"

"Would you mind telling us how you knew--" began Kirkwood anxiously.

"Not in the least, my dear Philip. It is simple enough: I possess an
imagination. From my bedroom window, on the floor above, I happen to behold
two cabs racing down the street, the one doggedly pursuing the other. The
foremost stops, perforce of a fagged horse. There alights a young gentleman
looking, if you'll pardon me, uncommonly seedy; he is followed by a young
lady, if she will pardon me," with another little bow, "uncommonly pretty.
With these two old eyes I observe that the gentleman does not pay his
cabby. Ergo--I intelligently deduce--he is short of money. Eh?"

"You were right," affirmed Kirkwood, with a rueful and crooked smile.

"So! so!" pursued Brentwick, rising on his toes and dropping back again;
"so this world of ours wags on to the old, old tune!... And I, who in my
younger days pursued adventure without success, in dotage find myself
dragged into a romance by my two ears, whether I will or no! Eh? And now
you are going to tell me all about it, Philip. There is a chair.... Well,

The butler had again appeared noiselessly in the doorway.

"Beg pardon, sir; they're waiting, sir."

"The caitiffs, Wotton?"


"Where waiting?"

"One at each end of the street, sir."

"Thank you. You may bring us sherry and biscuit, Wotton."

"Thank you, sir."

The servant vanished.

Brentwick removed his glasses, rubbed them, and blinked thoughtfully at the
girl. "My dear," he said suddenly, with a peculiar tremor in his voice,
"you resemble your mother remarkably. Tut--I should know! Time was when I
was one of her most ardent admirers."

"You--y-you knew my mother?" cried Dorothy, profoundly moved.

"Did I not know you at sight? My dear, you are your mother reincarnate, for
the good of an unworthy world. She was a very beautiful woman, my dear."

Wotton entered with a silver serving tray, offering it in turn to Dorothy,
Kirkwood and his employer. While he was present the three held silent--the
girl trembling slightly, but with her face aglow; Kirkwood half stupefied
between his ease from care and his growing astonishment, as Brentwick
continued to reveal unexpected phases of his personality; Brentwick himself
outwardly imperturbable and complacent, for all that his hand shook as he
lifted his wine glass.

"You may go, Wotton--or, wait. Don't you feel the need of a breath of fresh
air, Wotton?"

"Yessir, thank you, sir."

"Then change your coat, Wotton, light your pipe, and stroll out for half an
hour. You need not leave the street, but if either the tall thin blackguard
with the seafaring habit, or the short stout rascal with the air of mystery
should accost you, treat them with all courtesy, Wotton. You will be
careful not to tell either of them anything in particular, although I don't
mind your telling them that Mr. Brentwick lives here, if they ask. I am
mostly concerned to discover if they purpose becoming fixtures on the
street-corners, Wotton."

"Quite so, sir."

"Now you may go.... Wotton," continued his employer as the butler took
himself off as softly as a cat, "grows daily a more valuable mechanism. He
is by no means human in any respect, but I find him extremely handy to
have round the house.... And now, my dear," turning to Dorothy, "with your
permission I desire to drink to the memory of your beautiful mother and to
the happiness of her beautiful daughter."

"But you will tell me--"

"A number of interesting things, Miss Calendar, if you'll be good enough to
let me choose the time. I beg you to be patient with the idiosyncrasies
of an old man, who means no harm, who has a reputation as an eccentric to
sustain before his servants.... And now," said Brentwick, setting aside his
glass, "now, my dear boy, for the adventure."

Kirkwood chuckled, infected by his host's genial humor. "How do you know--"

"How can it be otherwise?" countered Brentwick with a trace of asperity.
"Am I to be denied my adventure? Sir, I refuse without equivocation. Your
very bearing breathes of Romance. There must be an adventure forthcoming,
Philip; otherwise my disappointment will be so acute that I shall be
regretfully obliged seriously to consider my right, as a householder, to
show you the door."

"But Mr. Brentwick--!"

"Sit down, sir!" commanded Brentwick with such a peremptory note that the
young man, who had risen, obeyed out of sheer surprise. Upon which his host
advanced, indicting him with a long white forefinger. "Would you, sir,"
he demanded, "again expose this little lady to the machinations of that
corpulent scoundrel, whom I have just had the pleasure of shooing off my
premises, because you choose to resent an old man's raillery?"

"I apologize," Kirkwood humored him.

"I accept the apology in the spirit in which it is offered.... I repeat,
now for the adventure, Philip. If the story's long, epitomize. We can
consider details more at our leisure."

Kirkwood's eyes consulted the girl's face; almost imperceptibly she nodded
him permission to proceed.

"Briefly, then," he began haltingly, "the man who followed us to the door
here, is Miss Calendar's father."

"Oh? His name, please?"

"George Burgoyne Calendar."

"Ah! An American; I remember, now. Continue, please."

"He is hounding us, sir, with the intention of stealing some property,
which he caused to be stolen, which we--to put it bluntly--stole from him,
to which he has no shadow of a title, and which, finally, we're endeavoring
to return to its owners."

"My dear!" interpolated Brentwick gently, looking down at the girl's
flushed face and drooping head.

"He ran us to the last ditch," Kirkwood continued; "I've spent my last
farthing trying to lose him."

"But why have you not caused his arrest?" Brentwick inquired.

Kirkwood nodded meaningly toward the girl. Brentwick made a sound
indicating comprehension, a click of the tongue behind closed teeth.

"We came to your door by the merest accident--it might as well have been
another. I understood you were in Munich, and it never entered my head that
we'd find you home."

"A communication from my solicitors detained me," explained Brentwick. "And
now, what do you intend to do?"

"Trespass as far on your kindness as you'll permit. In the first place,
I--I want the use of a few pounds with which to cable some friends in New
York, for money; on receipt of which I can repay you."

"Philip," observed Brentwood, "you are a most irritating child. But I
forgive you the faults of youth. You may proceed, bearing in mind, if you
please, that I am your friend equally with any you may own in America."

"You're one of the best men in the world," said Kirkwood.

"Tut, tut! Will you get on?"

"Secondly, I want you to help us to escape Calendar to-night. It is
necessary that Miss Calendar should go to Chiltern this evening, where she
has friends who will receive and protect her."

"Mm-mm," grumbled their host, meditative. "My faith!" he commented, with
brightening eyes. "It sounds almost too good to be true! And I've been
growing afraid that the world was getting to be a most humdrum and
uninteresting planet!... Miss Calendar, I am a widower of so many years
standing that I had almost forgotten I had ever been anything but a
bachelor. I fear my house contains little that will be of service to a
young lady. Yet a room is at your disposal; the parlor-maid shall show you
the way. And Philip, between you and me, I venture to remark that hot water
and cold steel would add to the attractiveness of your personal appearance;
my valet will attend you in my room. Dinner," concluded Brentwick with
anticipative relish, "will be served in precisely thirty minutes. I shall
expect you to entertain me with a full and itemized account of every phase
of your astonishing adventure. Later, we will find a way to Chiltern."

Again he put a hand upon the bell-pull. Simultaneously Dorothy and Kirkwood

"Mr. Brentwick," said the girl, her eyes starred with tears of gratitude,
"I don't, I really don't know how--"

"My dear," said the old gentleman, "you will thank me most appropriately
by continuing, to the best of your ability, to resemble your mother more
remarkably every minute."

"But I," began Kirkwood----.

"You, my dear Philip, can thank me best by permitting me to enjoy myself;
which I am doing thoroughly at the present moment. My pleasure in being
invited to interfere in your young affairs is more keen than you can well
surmise. Moreover," said Mr. Brentwick, "so long have I been an amateur
adventurer that I esteem it the rarest privilege to find myself thus on the
point of graduating into professional ranks." He rubbed his hands, beaming
upon them. "And," he added, as a maid appeared at the door, "I have already
schemed me a scheme for the discomfiture of our friends the enemy: a scheme
which we will discuss with our dinner, while the heathen rage and imagine a
vain thing, in the outer darkness."

Kirkwood would have lingered, but of such inflexible temper was his host
that he bowed him into the hands of a man servant without permitting him
another word.

"Not a syllable," he insisted. "I protest I am devoured with curiosity, my
dear boy, but I have also bowels of compassion. When we are well on with
our meal, when you are strengthened with food and drink, then you may
begin. But now--Dickie," to the valet, "do your duty!"

Kirkwood, laughing with exasperation, retired at discretion, leaving
Brentwick the master of the situation: a charming gentleman with a will of
his own and a way that went with it.

He heard the young man's footsteps diminish on the stairway; and again
he smiled the indulgent, melancholy smile of mellow years. "Youth!" he
whispered softly. "Romance!... And now," with a brisk change of tone as
he closed the study door, "now we are ready for this interesting Mr.

Sitting down at his desk, he found and consulted a telephone directory;
but its leaves, at first rustling briskly at the touch of the slender and
delicate fingers, were presently permitted to lie unturned,--the book
resting open on his knees the while he stared wistfully into the fire.

A suspicion of moisture glimmered in his eyes. "Dorothy!" he whispered
huskily. And a little later, rising, he proceeded to the telephone....

An hour and a half later Kirkwood, his self-respect something restored by
a bath, a shave, and a resumption of clothes which had been hastily but
thoroughly cleansed and pressed by Brentwick's valet; his confidence and
courage mounting high under the combined influence of generous wine,
substantial food, the presence of his heart's mistress and the
admiration--which was unconcealed--of his friend, concluded at the
dinner-table, his narration.

"And that," he said, looking up from his savory, "is about all."

"Bravo!" applauded Brentwick; eyes shining with delight.

"All," interposed Dorothy in warm reproach, "but what he hasn't told--"

"Which, my dear, is to be accounted for wholly by a very creditable
modesty, rarely encountered in the young men of the present day. It was, of
course, altogether different with those of my younger years. Yes, Wotton?"

Brentwick sat back in his chair, inclining an attentive ear to a
communication murmured by the butler.

Kirkwood's gaze met Dorothy's across the expanse of shining cloth; he
deprecated her interruption with a whimsical twist of his eyebrows.
"Really, you shouldn't," he assured her in an undertone. "I've done nothing
to deserve..." But under the spell of her serious sweet eyes, he fell
silent, and presently looked down, strangely abashed; and contemplated the
vast enormity of his unworthiness.

Coffee was set before them by Wotton, the impassive, Brentwick refusing
it with a little sigh. "It is one of the things, as Philip knows," he
explained to the girl, "denied me by the physician who makes his life happy
by making mine a waste. I am allowed but three luxuries; cigars, travel
in moderation, and the privilege of imposing on my friends. The first I
propose presently, to enjoy, by your indulgence; and the second I shall
this evening undertake by virtue of the third, of which I have just availed

Smiling at the involution, he rested his head against the back of the
chair, eyes roving from the girl's face to Kirkwood's. "Inspiration to
do which," he proceeded gravely, "came to me from the seafaring picaroon
(Stryker did you name him?) via the excellent Wotton. While you were
preparing for dinner, Wotton returned from his constitutional with the news
that, leaving the corpulent person on watch at the corner, Captain Stryker
had temporarily, made himself scarce. However, we need feel no anxiety
concerning his whereabouts, for he reappeared in good time and a
motor-car. From which it becomes evident that you have not overrated their
pertinacity; the fiasco of the cab-chase is not to be reënacted."

Resolutely the girl repressed a gasp of dismay. Kirkwood stared moodily
into his cup.

"These men bore me fearfully," he commented at last.

"And so," continued Brentwick, "I bethought me of a counter-stroke. It is
my good fortune to have a friend whose whim it is to support a touring-car,
chiefly in innocuous idleness. Accordingly I have telephoned him and
commandeered the use of this machine--mechanician, too.... Though not a
betting man, I am willing to risk recklessly a few pence in support of my
contention, that of the two, Captain Stryker's car and ours, the latter
will prove considerably the most speedy....

"In short, I suggest," he concluded, thoughtfully lacing his long white
fingers, "that, avoiding the hazards of cab and railway carriage, we motor
to Chiltern: the night being fine and the road, I am told, exceptionally
good. Miss Dorothy, what do you think?"

Instinctively the girl looked to Kirkwood; then shifted her glance to their
host. "I think you are wonderfully thoughtful and kind," she said simply.

"And you, Philip?"

"It's an inspiration," the younger man declared. "I can't think of anything
better calculated to throw them off, than to distance them by motor-car. It
would be always possible to trace our journey by rail."

"Then," announced Brentwick, making as if to rise, "we had best go. If
neither my hearing nor Captain Stryker's car deceives me, our fiery chariot
is panting at the door."

A little sobered from the confident spirit of quiet gaiety in which they
had dined, they left the table. Not that, in their hearts, either greatly
questioned their ultimate triumph; but they were allowing for the element
of error so apt to set at naught human calculations. Calendar himself had
already been proved fallible. Within the bounds of possibility, their turn
to stumble might now be imminent.

When he let himself dwell upon it, their utter helplessness to give
Calendar pause by commonplace methods, maddened Kirkwood. With another
scoundrel it had been so simple a matter to put a period to his activities
by a word to the police. But he was her father; for that reason he must
continually be spared ... Even though, in desperate extremity, she should
give consent to the arrest of the adventurers, retaliation would follow,
swift and sure. For they might not overlook nor gloze the fact that hers
had been the hands responsible for the theft of the jewels; innocent
though she had been in committing that larceny, a cat's-paw guided by an
intelligence unscrupulous and malign, the law would not hold her guiltless
were she once brought within its cognizance. Nor, possibly, would the
Hallams, mother and son.

Upon their knowledge and their fear of this, undoubtedly Calendar was
reckoning: witness the barefaced effrontery with which he operated against
them. His fear of the police might be genuine enough, but he was never for
an instant disturbed by any doubt lest his daughter should turn against
him. She would never dare that.

Before they left the house, while Dorothy was above stairs resuming her
hat and coat, Kirkwood and Brentwick reconnoitered from the drawing-room
windows, themselves screened from observation by the absence of light in
the room behind.

Before the door a motor-car waited, engines humming impatiently,
mechanician ready in his seat, an uncouth shape in goggles and leather
garments that shone like oilskins under the street lights.

At one corner another and a smaller car stood in waiting, its lamps like
baleful eyes glaring through the night.

In the shadows across the way, a lengthy shadow lurked: Stryker, beyond
reasonable question. Otherwise the street was deserted. Not even that
adventitous bobby of the early evening was now in evidence.

Dorothy presently joining them, Brentwick led the way to the door.

Wotton, apparently nerveless beneath his absolute immobility, let them
out--and slammed the door behind them with such promptitude as to give
cause for the suspicion that he was a fraud, a sham, beneath his icy
exterior desperately afraid lest the house be stormed by the adventurers.

Kirkwood to the right, Brentwick to the left of Dorothy, the former
carrying the treasure bag, they hastened down the walk and through the gate
to the car.

The watcher across the way was moved to whistle shrilly; the other car
lunged forward nervously.

Brentwick taking the front seat, beside the mechanician, left the tonneau
to Kirkwood and Dorothy. As the American slammed the door, the car swept
smoothly out into the middle of the way, while the pursuing car swerved in
to the other curb, slowing down to let Stryker jump aboard.

Kirkwood put himself in the seat by the girl's side and for a few moments
was occupied with the arrangement of the robes. Then, sitting back, he
found her eyes fixed upon him, pools of inscrutable night in the shadow of
her hat.

"You aren't afraid, Dorothy?"

She answered quietly: "I am with you, Philip."

Beneath the robe their hands met...

Exalted, excited, he turned and looked back. A hundred yards to the rear
four unwinking eyes trailed them, like some modern Nemesis in monstrous



At a steady gait, now and again checked in deference to the street traffic,
Brentwick's motor-car rolled, with resonant humming of the engine, down
the Cromwell Road, swerved into Warwick Road and swung northward through
Kensington to Shepherd's Bush. Behind it Calendar's car clung as if towed
by an invisible cable, never gaining, never losing, mutely testifying to
the adventurer's unrelenting, grim determination to leave them no instant's
freedom from surveillance, to keep for ever at their shoulders, watching
his chance, biding his time with sinister patience until the moment when,
wearied, their vigilance should relax....

To some extent he reckoned without his motor-car. As long as they traveled
within the metropolitan limits, constrained to observe a decorous pace
in view of the prejudices of the County Council, it was a matter of no
difficulty whatever to maintain his distance. But once they had won through
Shepherd's Bush and, paced by huge doubledeck trolley trams, were flying
through Hammersmith on the Uxbridge Road; once they had run through Acton,
and knew beyond dispute that now they were without the city boundaries,
then the complexion of the business was suddenly changed.

Not too soon for honest sport; Calendar was to have (Kirkwood would have
said in lurid American idiom) a run for his money. The scattered lights of
Southall were winking out behind them before Brentwick chose to give the
word to the mechanician.

Quietly the latter threw in the clutch for the third speed--and the fourth.
The car leaped forward like a startled race-horse. The motor lilted merrily
into its deep-throated song of the open road, its contented, silken humming
passing into a sonorous and sustained purr.

Kirkwood and the girl were first jarred violently forward, then thrown
together. She caught his arm to steady herself; it seemed the most natural
thing imaginable that he should take her hand and pass it beneath his
arm, holding her so, his fingers closed above her own. Before they had
recovered, or had time to catch their breath, a mile of Middlesex had
dropped to the rear.

Not quite so far had they distanced Calendar's trailing Nemesis of the four
glaring eyes; the pursuers put forth a gallant effort to hold their place.
At intervals during the first few minutes a heavy roaring and crashing
could be heard behind them; gradually it subsided, dying on the wings of
the free rushing wind that buffeted their faces as mile after mile was
reeled off and the wide, darkling English countryside opened out before
them, sweet and wonderful.

Once Kirkwood looked back; in the winking of an eye he saw four faded disks
of light, pallid with despair, top a distant rise and glide down into
darkness. When he turned, Dorothy was interrogating him with eyes whose
melting, shadowed loveliness, revealed to him in the light of the far,
still stars, seemed to incite him to that madness which he had bade himself
resist with all his strength.

He shook his head, as if to say: They can not catch us.

His hour was not yet; time enough to think of love and marriage (as if he
were capable of consecutive thought on any other subject!)--time enough to
think of them when he had gene back to his place, or rather when he should
have found it, in the ranks of bread-winners, and so have proved his right
to mortal happiness; time enough then to lay whatever he might have to
offer at her feet. Now he could conceive of no baser treachery to his
soul's-desire than to advantage himself of her gratitude.

Resolutely he turned his face forward, striving with all his will and might
to forget the temptation of her lips, weary as they were and petulant with
waiting; and so sat rigid in his time of trial, clinging with what strength
he could to the standards of his honor, and trying to lose his dream
in dreaming of the bitter struggle that seemed likely to be his future

Perhaps she guessed a little of the fortunes of the battle that was being
waged within him. Perhaps not. Whatever the trend of her thoughts, she did
not draw away from him.... Perhaps the breath of night, fresh and clean and
fragrant with the odor of the fields and hedges, sweeping into her face
with velvety caress, rendered her drowsy. Presently the silken lashes
drooped, fluttering upon her cheeks, the tired and happy smile hovered
about her lips....

In something less than half an hour of this wild driving, Kirkwood roused
out of his reverie sufficiently to become sensible that the speed was
slackening. Incoherent snatches of sentences, fragments of words and
phrases spoken by Brentwick and the mechanician, were flung back past his
ears by the rushing wind. Shielding his eyes he could see dimly that the
mechanician was tinkering (apparently) with the driving gear. Then, their
pace continuing steadily to abate, he heard Brentwick fling at the man a
sharp-toned and querulously impatient question: What was the trouble? His
reply came in a single word, not distinguishable.

The girl sat up, opening her eyes, disengaging her arm.

Kirkwood bent forward and touched Brentwick on the shoulder; the latter
turned to him a face lined with deep concern.

"Trouble," he announced superfluously. "I fear we have blundered."

"What is it?" asked Dorothy in a troubled voice.

"Petrol seems to be running low. Charles here" (he referred to the
mechanician) "says the tank must be leaking. We'll go on as best we can and
try to find an inn. Fortunately, most of the inns nowadays keep supplies of
petrol for just such emergencies."

"Are we--? Do you think--?"

"Oh, no; not a bit of danger of that," returned Brentwick hastily. "They'll
not catch up with us this night. That is a very inferior car they have,--so
Charles says, at least; nothing to compare with this. If I'm not in error,
there's the Crown and Mitre just ahead; we'll make it, fill our tanks, and
be off again before they can make up half their loss."

Dorothy looked anxiously to Kirkwood, her lips forming an unuttered query:
What did he think?

"Don't worry; we'll have no trouble," he assured her stoutly; "the
chauffeur knows, undoubtedly."

None the less he was moved to stand up in the tonneau, conscious of the
presence of the traveling bag, snug between his feet, as well as of the
weight of Calendar's revolver in his pocket, while he stared back along the

There was nothing to be seen of their persecutors.

The car continued to crawl. Five minutes dragged out tediously. Gradually
they, drew abreast a tavern standing back a distance from the road,
embowered in a grove of trees between whose ancient boles the tap-room
windows shone enticingly, aglow with comfortable light. A creaking
sign-board, much worn by weather and age, swinging from a roadside post,
confirmed the accuracy of Brentwick's surmise, announcing that here stood
the Crown and Mitre, house of entertainment for man and beast.

Sluggishly the car rolled up before it and came to a dead and silent halt.
Charles, the mechanician, jumping out, ran hastily up the path towards the
inn. In the car Brentwick turned again, his eyes curiously bright in the
starlight, his forehead quaintly furrowed, his voice apologetic.

"It may take a few minutes," he said undecidedly, plainly endeavoring to
cover up his own dark doubts. "My dear," to the girl, "if I have brought
trouble upon you in this wise, I shall never earn my own forgiveness."

Kirkwood stood up again, watchful, attentive to the sounds of night; but
the voice of the pursuing motor-car was not of their company. "I hear
nothing," he announced.

"You will forgive me,--won't you, my dear?--for causing you these few
moments of needless anxiety?" pleaded the old gentleman, his tone

"As if you could be blamed!" protested the girl. "You mustn't think of it
that way. Fancy, what should we have done without you!"

"I'm afraid I have been very clumsy," sighed Brentwick, "clumsy and
impulsive ... Kirkwood, do you hear anything?"

"Not yet, sir."

"Perhaps," suggested Brentwick a little later, "perhaps we had better
alight and go up to the inn. It would be more cosy there, especially if the
petrol proves hard to obtain, and we have long to wait."

"I should like that," assented the girl decidedly.

Kirkwood nodded his approval, opened the door and jumped out to assist her;
then picked up the bag and followed the pair,--Brentwick leading the way
with Dorothy on his arm.

At the doorway of the Crown and Mitre, Charles met them evidently seriously
disturbed. "No petrol to be had here, sir," he announced reluctantly; "but
the landlord will send to the next inn, a mile up the road, for some. You
will have to be patient, I'm afraid, sir."

"Very well. Get some one to help you push the car in from the road,"
ordered Brentwick; "we will be waiting in one of the private parlors."

"Yes, sir; thank you, sir." The mechanician touched the visor of his cap
and hurried off.

"Come, Kirkwood." Gently Brentwick drew the girl in with him.

Kirkwood lingered momentarily on the doorstep, to listen acutely. But the
wind was blowing into that quarter whence they had come, and he could hear
naught save the soughing in the trees, together with an occasional burst
of rude rustic laughter from the tap-room. Lifting his shoulders in dumb
dismay, and endeavoring to compose his features, he entered the tavern.


A rosy-cheeked and beaming landlady met him in the corridor and, all bows
and smiles, ushered him into a private parlor reserved for the party,
immediately bustling off in a desperate flurry, to secure refreshments
desired by Brentwick.

The girl had seated herself on one end of an extremely comfortless lounge
and was making a palpable effort to seem at ease. Brentwick stood at one of
the windows, shoulders rounded and head bent, hands clasped behind his back
as he peered out into the night. Kirkwood dropped the traveling bag beneath
a chair the farthest removed from the doorway, and took to pacing the

In a corner of the room a tall grandfather's clock ticked off ten
interminable minutes. For some reason unconscionably delaying, the landlady
did not reappear. Brentwick, abruptly turning from the window, remarked
the fact querulously, then drew a chair up to a marble-topped table in the
middle of the floor.

"My dear," he requested the girl, "will you oblige me by sitting over here?
And Philip, bring up a chair, if you will. We must not permit ourselves to
worry, and I have something here which may, perhaps, engage your interest
for a while."

To humor him and alleviate his evident distress of mind, they acceded.
Kirkwood found himself seated opposite Dorothy, Brentwick between them.
After some hesitation, made the more notable by an air of uneasiness
which sat oddly on his shoulders, whose composure and confident mien had
theretofore been so complete and so reassuring, the elder gentleman fumbled
in an inner coat-pocket and brought to light a small black leather wallet.
He seemed to be on the point of opening it when hurried footfalls sounded
in the hallway. Brentwick placed the wallet, still with its secret intact,
on the table before him, as Charles burst unceremoniously in, leaving the
door wide open.

"Mr. Brentwick, sir!" he cried gustily. "That other car--"

With a smothered ejaculation Kirkwood leaped to his feet, tugging at the
weapon in his pocket. In another instant he had the revolver exposed.
The girl's cry of alarm, interrupting the machinist, fixed Brentwick's
attention on the young man. He, too, stood up, reaching over very quickly,
to clamp strong supple fingers round Kirkwood's wrist, while with the other
hand he laid hold of the revolver and by a single twist wrenched it away.

Kirkwood turned upon him in fury. "So!" he cried, shaking with passion.
"This is what your hospitality meant! You're going to--"

"My dear young friend," interrupted Brentwick with a flash of impatience,
"remember that if I had designed to betray you, I could have asked no
better opportunity than when you were my guest under my own roof."

"But--hang it all, Brentwick!" expostulated Kirkwood, ashamed and contrite,
but worked upon by desperate apprehension; "I didn't mean that, but--"

"Would you have bullets flying when she is near?" demanded Brentwick
scathingly. Hastily he slipped the revolver upon a little shelf beneath the
table-top. "Sir!" he informed Kirkwood with some heat, "I love you as my
own son, but you're a young fool!... as I have been, in my time ... and as
I would to Heaven I might be again! Be advised, Philip,--be calm. Can't you
see it's the only way to save your treasure?"

"Hang the jewels!" retorted Kirkwood warmly. "What--"

"Sir, who said anything about the jewels?"

As Brentwick spoke, Calendar's corpulent figure filled the doorway;
Stryker's weather-worn features loomed over his shoulder, distorted in a
cheerful leer.

"As to the jewels," announced the fat adventurer, "I've got a word to say,
if you put it to me that way."

He paused on the threshold, partly for dramatic effect, partly for his own
satisfaction, his quick eyes darting from face to face of the four people
whom he had caught so unexpectedly. A shade of complacency colored his
expression, and he smiled evilly beneath the coarse short thatch of his
gray mustache. In his hand a revolver appeared, poised for immediate use if
there were need.

There was none. Brentwick, at his primal appearance, had dropped a
peremptory hand on Kirkwood's shoulder, forcing the young man back to his
seat; at the same time he resumed his own. The girl had not stirred from
hers since the first alarm; she sat as if transfixed with terror, leaning
forward with her elbows on the table, her hands tightly clasped, her face,
a little blanched, turned to the door. But her scarlet lips were set and
firm with inflexible purpose, and her brown eyes met Calendar's with a look
level and unflinching. Beyond this she gave no sign of recognition.

Nearest of the four to the adventurers was Charles, the mechanician, paused
in affrighted astonishment at sight of the revolver. Calendar, choosing to
advance suddenly, poked the muzzle of the weapon jocularly in the man's
ribs. "Beat it, Four-eyes!" he snapped. "This is your cue to duck! Get out
of my way."

The mechanician jumped as if shot, then hastily, retreated to the table,
his sallow features working beneath the goggle-mask which had excited the
fat adventurer's scorn.

"Come right in, Cap'n," Calendar threw over one shoulder; "come in, shut
the door and lock it. Let's all be sociable, and have a nice quiet time."

Stryker obeyed, with a derisive grimace for Kirkwood.

Calendar, advancing jauntily to a point within a yard of the table,
stopped, smiling affably down upon his prospective victims, and airily
twirling his revolver.

"_Good_ evening, all!" he saluted them blandly. "Dorothy, my child," with
assumed concern, "you're looking a trifle upset; I'm afraid you've been
keeping late hours. Little girls must be careful, you know, or they lose
the bloom of roses in their cheeks.... Mr. Kirkwood, it's a pleasure to
meet you again! Permit me to paraphrase your most sound advice, and remind
you that pistol-shots are apt to attract undesirable attention. It wouldn't
be wise for _you_ to bring the police about our ears. I believe that
in substance such was your sapient counsel to me in the cabin of the
_Alethea_; was it not?... And you, sir!"--fixing Brentwick with a cold
unfriendly eye. "You animated fossil, what d'you mean by telling me to go
to the devil?... But let that pass; I hold no grudge. What might your name

[Illustration: "_Good_ evening, all!" he saluted them blandly.]

"It might be Brentwick," said that gentleman placidly.

"Brentwick, eh? Well, I like a man of spirit. But permit me to advise

"Gladly," nodded Brentwick.

"Eh?... Don't come a second time between father and daughter; another man
might not be as patient as I, Mister Brentwick. There's a law in the land,
if you don't happen to know it."

"I congratulate you on your success in evading it," observed Brentwick,
undisturbed. "And it was considerate of you not to employ it in this
instance." Then, with a sharp change of tone, "Come, sir!" he demanded.
"You have unwarrantably intruded in this room, which I have engaged for my
private use. Get through with your business and be off with you."

"All in my good time, my antediluvian friend. When I've wound up my
business here I'll go--not before. But, just to oblige you, we'll get down
to it.... Kirkwood, you have a revolver of mine. Be good enough to return

"I have it here,--under the table," interrupted Brentwick suavely. "Shall I
hand it to you?"

"By the muzzle, if you please. Be very careful; this one's loaded, too--apt
to explode any minute."

To Kirkwood's intense disgust Brentwick quietly slipped one hand beneath
the table and, placing the revolver on its top, delicately with his
finger-tips shoved it toward the farther edge. With a grunt of approval,
Calendar swept the weapon up and into his pocket.

"Any more ordnance?" he inquired briskly, eyes moving alertly from face to
face. "No matter; you wouldn't dare use 'em anyway. And I'm about done.
Dorothy, my dear, it's high time you returned to your father's protection.
Where's that gladstone bag?"

"In my traveling bag," the girl told him in a toneless voice.

"Then you may bring it along. You may also say good night to the kind

Dorothy did not move; her pallor grew more intense and Kirkwood saw her
knuckles tighten beneath the gloves. Otherwise her mouth seemed to grow
more straight and hard.

"Dorothy!" cried the adventurer with a touch of displeasure. "You heard

"I heard you," she replied a little wearily, more than a little
contemptuously. "Don't mind him, please, Mr. Kirkwood!"--with an appealing
gesture, as Kirkwood, unable to contain himself, moved restlessly in his
chair, threatening to rise. "Don't say anything. I have no intention
whatever of going with this man."

Calendar's features twitched nervously; he chewed a corner of his mustache,
fixing the girl with a black stare. "I presume," he remarked after a
moment, with slow deliberation, "you're aware that, as your father, I am in
a position to compel you to accompany me."

"I shall not go with you," iterated Dorothy in a level tone. "You may
threaten me, but--I shall not go. Mr. Brentwick and Mr. Kirkwood are taking
me to--friends, who will give me a home until I can find a way to take care
of myself. That is all I have to say to you."

"Bravo, my dear!" cried Brentwick encouragingly.

"Mind your business, sir!" thundered Calendar, his face darkening. Then, to
Dorothy, "You understand, I trust, what this means?" he demanded. "I offer
you a home--and a good one. Refuse, and you work for your living, my girl!
You've forfeited your legacy--"

"I know, I know," she told him in cold disdain. "I am content. Won't you be
kind enough to leave me alone?"

For a breath, Calendar glowered over her; then, "I presume," he observed,
"that all these heroics are inspired by that whipper-snapper, Kirkwood. Do
you know that he hasn't a brass farthing to bless himself with?"

"What has that--?" cried the girl indignantly.

"Why, it has everything to do with me, my child. As your doting parent, I
can't consent to your marrying nothing-a-year.... For I surmise you intend
to marry this Mr. Kirkwood, don't you?"

There followed a little interval of silence, while the warm blood flamed in
the girl's face and the red lips trembled as she faced her tormentor. Then,
with a quaver that escaped her control, "If Mr. Kirkwood asks me, I shall,"
she stated very simply.

"That," interposed Kirkwood, "is completely understood." His gaze sought
her eyes, but she looked away.

"You forget that I am your father," sneered Calendar; "and that you are a
minor. I can refuse my consent."

"But you won't," Kirkwood told him with assurance.

The adventurer stared. "No," he agreed, after slight hesitation; "no,
I shan't interfere. Take her, my boy, if you want her--and a father's
blessing into the bargain. The Lord knows I've troubles enough; a parent's
lot is not what it's cracked up to be." He paused, leering, ironic.
"But,"--deliberately, "there's still this other matter of the gladstone
bag. I don't mind abandoning my parental authority, when my child's
happiness is concerned, but as for my property--"

"It is not your property," interrupted the girl.

"It was your mother's, dear child. It's now mine."

"I dispute that assertion," Kirkwood put in.

"You may dispute it till the cows come home, my boy: the fact will remain
that I intend to take my property with me when I leave this room, whether
you like it or not. Now are you disposed to continue the argument, or may I
count on your being sensible?"

"You may put away your revolver, if that's what you mean," said Kirkwood.
"We certainly shan't oppose you with violence, but I warn you that Scotland

"Oh, that be blowed!" the adventurer snorted in disgust. "I can sail
circles round any tec. that ever blew out of Scotland Yard! Give me an
hour's start, and you're free to do all the funny business you've a mind
to, with--Scotland Yard!"

"Then you admit," queried Brentwick civilly, "that you've no legal title to
the jewels in dispute?"

"Look here, my friend," chuckled Calendar, "when you catch me admitting
anything, you write it down in your little book and tell the bobby on
the corner. Just at present I've got other business than to stand round
admitting anything about anything.... Cap'n, let's have that bag of my
dutiful daughter's."

"'Ere you are." Stryker spoke for the first time since entering the room,
taking the valise from beneath the chair and depositing it on the table.

"Well, we shan't take anything that doesn't belong to us," laughed
Calendar, fumbling with the catch; "not even so small a matter as my own
child's traveling bag. A small--heavy--gladstone bag," he grunted, opening
the valise and plunging in one greedy hand, "will--just--about--do for
mine!" With which he produced the article mentioned. "This for the discard,
Cap'n," he laughed contentedly, pushing the girl's valise aside; and,
rumbling with stentorian mirth, stood beaming benignantly over the
assembled company.

"Why," he exclaimed, "this moment is worth all it cost me! My children,
I forgive you freely. Mr. Kirkwood, I felicitate you cordially on having
secured a most expensive wife. Really--d'you know?--I feel as if I ought to
do a little something for you both." Gurgling with delight he smote his fat
palms together. "I just tell you what," he resumed, "no one yet ever called
Georgie Calendar a tight-wad. I just believe I'm going to make you kids a
handsome wedding present.... The good Lord knows there's enough of this for
a fellow to be a little generous and never miss it!"

The thick mottled fingers tore nervously at the catch; eventually he got
the bag open. Those about the table bent forward, all quickened by the
prospect of for the first time beholding the treasure over which they had
fought, for which they had suffered, so long....

A heady and luscious fragrance pervaded the atmosphere, exhaling from the
open mouth of the bag. A silence, indefinitely sustained, impressed itself
upon the little audience,--a breathless pause ended eventually by a sharp
snap of Calendar's teeth. "_Mmm_!" grunted the adventurer in bewilderment.
He began to pant.

Abruptly his heavy hands delved into the contents of the bag, like the paws
of a terrier digging in earth. To Kirkwood the air seemed temporarily thick
with flying objects. Beneath his astonished eyes a towel fell upon the
table--a crumpled, soiled towel, bearing on its dingy hem the inscription
in indelible ink: "_Hôtel du Commerce, Anvers_." A tooth-mug of substantial
earthenware dropped to the floor with a crash. A slimy soap-dish of the
same manufacture slid across the table and into Brentwick's lap. A battered
alarm clock with never a tick left in its abused carcass rang vacuously as
it fell by the open bag.... The remainder was--oranges: a dozen or more
small, round, golden globes of ripe fruit, perhaps a shade overripe,
therefore the more aromatic.

The adventurer ripped out an oath. "Mulready, by the living God!" he raged
in fury. "Done up, I swear! Done by that infernal sneak--me, blind as a

He fell suddenly silent, the blood congesting in his face; as suddenly
broke forth again, haranguing the company.

"That's why he went out and bought those damned oranges, is it? Think of
it--me sitting in the hotel in Antwerp and him lugging in oranges by the
bagful because he was fond of fruit! When did he do it? How do I know? If I
knew, would I be here and him the devil knows where, this minute? When my
back was turned, of course, the damned snake! That's why he was so hot
about picking a fight on the boat, hey? Wanted to get thrown off and take
to the woods--leaving me with _this_! And that's why he felt so awful
done up he wouldn't take a hand at hunting you two down, hey?
Well--by--the--Eternal! I'll camp on his trail for the rest of his
natural-born days! I'll have his eye-teeth for this, I'll--"

He swayed, gibbering with rage, his countenance frightfully contorted, his
fat hands shaking as he struggled for expression.

And then, while yet their own astonishment held Dorothy, Kirkwood,
Brentwick and Stryker speechless, Charles, the mechanician, moved suddenly
upon the adventurer.

There followed two metallic clicks. Calendar's ravings were abrupted as if
his tongue had been paralyzed. He fell back a pace, flabby jowls pale and
shaking, ponderous jaw dropping on his breast, mouth wide and eyes crazed
as he shook violently before him his thick fleshy wrists--securely

Simultaneously the mechanician whirled about, bounded eagerly across the
floor, and caught Stryker at the door, his dexterous fingers twisting in
the captain's collar as he jerked him back and tripped him.

"Mr. Kirkwood!" he cried. "Here, please--one moment. Take this man's gun,
from him, will you?"

Kirkwood sprang to his assistance, and without encountering much trouble,
succeeded in wresting a Webley from Stryker's limp, flaccid fingers.

Roughly the mechanician shook the man, dragging him to his feet. "Now," he
ordered sternly, "you march to that corner, stick your nose in it, and be
good! You can't get away if you try. I've got other men outside, waiting
for you to come out. Understand?"

Trembling like a whipped cur, Stryker meekly obeyed his instructions to the

The mechanician, with a contemptuous laugh leaving him, strode back to
Calendar, meanwhile whipping off his goggles; and clapped a hearty hand
upon the adventurer's quaking shoulders.

"Well!" he cried. "And are you still sailing circles round the men
from Scotland Yard, Simmons, or Bellows, or Sanderson, or Calendar, or
Crumbstone, or whatever name you prefer to sail under?"

Calendar glared at him aghast; then heaved a profound sigh, shrugged his
fat shoulders, and bent his head in thought. An instant later he looked up.
"You can't do it," he informed the detective vehemently; "you haven't got a
shred of evidence against me! What's there? A pile of oranges and a peck
of trash! What of it?... Besides," he threatened, "if you pinch me, you'll
have to take the girl in, too. I swear that whatever stealing was done,
she did it. I'll not be trapped this way by her and let her off without a
squeal. Take me--take her; d'you hear?"

"I think," put in the clear, bland accents of Brentwick, "we can consider
that matter settled. I have here, my man,"--nodding to the adventurer as he
took up the black leather wallet,--"I have here a little matter which
may clear up any lingering doubts as to your standing, which you may be
disposed at present to entertain."

He extracted a slip of cardboard and, at arm's length, laid it on the
table-edge beneath the adventurer's eyes. The latter, bewildered, bent over
it for a moment, breathing heavily; then straightened back, shook himself,
laughed shortly with a mirthless note, and faced the detective.

"It's come with you now, I guess?" he suggested very quietly.

"The Bannister warrant is still out for you," returned the man. "That'll be
enough to hold you on till extradition papers arrive from the States."

"Oh, I'll waive those; and I won't give you any trouble, either.... I
reckon," mused the adventurer, jingling his manacles thoughtfully, "I'm a
back-number, anyway. When a half-grown girl, a half-baked boy, a flub like
Mulready--damn his eyes!--and a club-footed snipe from Scotland Yard can
put it all over me this way,... why, I guess it's up to me to go home and
retire to my country-place up the Hudson." He sighed wearily.

"Yep; time to cut it out. But I would like to be free long enough to get in
one good lick at that mutt, Mulready. My friend, you get your hands on him,
and I'll squeal on him till I'm blue in the face. That's a promise."

"You'll have the chance before long," replied the detective. "We received
a telegram from the Amsterdam police late this afternoon, saying they'd
picked up Mr. Mulready with a woman named Hallam, and were holding them
on suspicion. It seems,"--turning to Brentwick,--"they were opening
negotiations for the sale of a lot of stones, and seemed in such a precious
hurry that the diamond merchant's suspicions were roused. We're sending
over for them, Miss Calendar, so you can make your mind easy about your
jewels; you'll have them back in a few days."

"Thank you," said the girl with an effort.

"Well," the adventurer delivered his peroration, "I certainly am blame'
glad to hear it. 'Twouldn't 've been a square deal, any other way."

He paused, looking his erstwhile dupes over with a melancholy eye; then,
with an uncertain nod comprehending the girl, Kirkwood and Brentwick, "So
long!" he said thickly; and turned, with the detective's hand under his arm
and, accompanied by the thoroughly cowed Stryker, waddled out of the room.


Kirkwood, following the exodus, closed the door with elaborate care and
slowly, deep in thought, returned to the table.

Dorothy seemed not to have moved, save to place her elbows on the marble
slab, and rest her cheeks between hands that remained clenched, as they had
been in the greatest stress of her emotion. The color had returned to
her face, with a slightly enhanced depth of hue to the credit of her
excitement. Her cheeks were hot, her eyes starlike beneath the woven, massy
sunlight of her hair. Temporarily unconscious of her surroundings she
stared steadfastly before her, thoughts astray in the irridescent glamour
of the dreams that were to come....

Brentwick had slipped down in his chair, resting his silvered head upon its
back, and was smiling serenely up at the low yellow ceiling. Before him on
the table his long white fingers were drumming an inaudible tune. Presently
rousing, he caught Kirkwood's eye and smiled sheepishly, like a child
caught in innocent mischief.

The younger man grinned broadly. "And you were responsible for all that!"
he commented, infinitely amused.

Brentwick nodded, twinkling self-satisfaction. "I contrived it all," he
said; "neat, I call it, too." His old eyes brightened with reminiscent
enjoyment. "Inspiration!" he crowed softly. "Inspiration, pure and simple.
I'd been worrying my wits for fully five minutes before Wotton settled the
matter by telling me about the captain's hiring of the motor-car. Then,
in a flash, I had it.... I talked with Charles by telephone,--his name is
really Charles, by, the bye,--overcame his conscientious scruples about
playing his fish when they were already all but landed, and settled the
artistic details."

He chuckled delightedly. "It's the instinct," he declared emphatically,
"the instinct for adventure. I knew it was in me, latent somewhere, but
never till this day did it get the opportunity to assert itself. A born
adventurer--that's what I am!... You see, it was essential that they should
believe we were frightened and running from them; that way, they would be
sure to run after us. Why, we might have baited a dozen traps and failed
to lure them into my house, after that stout scoundrel knew you'd had the
chance to tell me the whole yarn... Odd!"

"Weren't you taking chances, you and Charles?" asked Kirkwood curiously.

"Precious few. There was another motor from Scotland Yard trailing Captain
Stryker's. If they had run past, or turned aside, they would have been
overhauled in short order."

He relapsed into his whimsical reverie; the wistful look returned to his
eyes, replacing the glow of triumph and pleasure. And he sighed a little

"What I don't understand," contended Kirkwood, "is how you convinced
Calendar that he couldn't get revenge by pressing his charge against Miss

"Oh-h?" Mr. Brentwick elevated his fine white eyebrows and sat up briskly.
"My dear boy, that was the most delectable dish on the entire menu. I have
been reserving it, I don't mind owning, that I might better enjoy the full
relish of it.... I may answer you best, perhaps, by asking you to scan what
I offered to the fat scoundrel's respectful consideration, my dear sir."

He leveled a forefinger at the card.

At first glance it conveyed nothing to the younger man's benighted
intelligence. He puzzled over it, twisting his brows out of alignment.
An ordinary oblong slip of thin white cardboard, it was engraved in fine
script as follows:



"Oh!" exclaimed Kirkwood at length, standing up, his face bright with
understanding. "_You_--!"

"I," laconically assented the elder man.

Impulsively Kirkwood leaned across the table. "Dorothy," he said tenderly;
and when the girl's happy eyes met his, quietly drew her attention to the

Then he rose hastily, and went over to stand by the window, staring mistily
into the blank face of night beyond its unseen panes.

Behind him there was a confusion of little noises; the sound of a chair
pushed hurriedly aside, a rustle of skirts, a happy sob or two, low voices
intermingling; sighs.... Out of it finally came the father's accents.

"There, there, my dear! My dearest dear!" protested the old gentleman.
"Positively I don't deserve a tithe of this. I--" The young old voice
quavered and broke, in a happy laugh.... "You must understand," he
continued more soberly, "that no consideration of any sort is due me. When
we married, I was too old for your mother, child; we both knew it, both
believed it would never matter. But it did. By her wish, I went back
to America; we were to see what separation would do to heal the wounds
dissension had caused. It was a very foolish experiment. Your mother died
before I could return...."

There fell a silence, again broken by the father. "After that I was in
no haste to return. But some years ago, I came to London to live. I
communicated with the old colonel, asking permission to see you. It was
refused in a manner which precluded the subject being reopened by me: I
was informed that if I persisted in attempting to see you, you would be
disinherited.... He was very angry with me--justly, I admit.... One must
grow old before one can see how unforgivably one was wrong in youth.... So
I settled down to a quiet old age, determined not to disturb you in your
happiness.... Ah--Kirkwood!"

The old gentleman was standing, his arm around his daughter's shoulders,
when Kirkwood turned.

"Come here, Philip; I'm explaining to Dorothy, but you should hear.... The
evening I called on you, dear boy, at the Pless, returning home I received
a message from my solicitors, whom I had instructed to keep an eye on
Dorothy's welfare. They informed me that she had disappeared. Naturally I
canceled my plans to go to Munich, and stayed, employing detectives. One
of the first things they discovered was that Dorothy had run off with an
elderly person calling himself George Burgoyne Calendar--the name I had
discarded when I found that to acknowledge me would imperil my daughter's
fortune.... The investigations went deeper; Charles--let us continue to
call him--had been to see me only this afternoon, to inform me of the plot
they had discovered. This Hallam woman and her son--it seems that they were
legitimately in the line of inheritance, Dorothy out of the way. But the
woman was--ah--a bad lot. Somehow she got into communication with this fat
rogue and together they plotted it out. Charles doesn't believe that the
Hallam woman expected to enjoy the Burgoyne estates for very many days. Her
plan was to step in when Dorothy stepped out, gather up what she could,
realize on it, and decamp. That is why there was so much excitement about
the jewels: naturally the most valuable item on her list, the most easy to
convert into cash.... The man Mulready we do not place; he seems to have
been a shady character the fat rogue picked up somewhere. The latter's
ordinary line of business was diamond smuggling, though he would condescend
to almost anything in order to turn a dishonest penny....

"That seems to exhaust the subject. But one word more.... Dorothy, I am
old enough and have suffered enough to know the wisdom of seizing one's
happiness when one may. My dear, a little while ago, you did a very brave
deed. Under fire you said a most courageous, womanly, creditable thing. And
Philip's rejoinder was only second in nobility to yours.... I do hope to
goodness that you two blessed youngsters won't let any addlepated scruples
stand between yourselves and--the prize of Romance, your inalienable

Abruptly Brentwick, who was no longer Brentwick, but the actual Calendar,
released the girl from his embrace and hopped nimbly toward the door.
"Really, I must see about that petrol!" he cried. "While it's perfectly
true that Charles lied about it's running out, we must be getting on. I'll
call you when we're ready to start."

And the door crashed to behind him....

Between them was the table. Beyond it the girl stood with head erect, dim
tears glimmering on the lashes of those eyes with which she met Philip's
steady gaze so fearlessly.

Singing about them, the silence deepened. Fascinated, though his heart was
faint with longing, Kirkwood faltered on the threshold of his kingdom.

"Dorothy!... You did mean it, dear?"

She laughed, a little, low, sobbing laugh that had its source deep in the
hidden sanctuary of her heart of a child.

"I meant it, my dearest.... If you'll have a girl so bold and forward, who
can't wait till she's asked but throws herself into the arms of the man she
loves--Philip, I meant it, every word!..."

And as he went to her swiftly, round the table, she turned to meet him,
arms uplifted, her scarlet lips a-tremble, the brown and bewitching lashes
drooping over her wondrously lighted eyes....

After a time Philip Kirkwood laughed aloud.

And there was that quality in the ring of his laughter that caused the
Shade of Care, which had for the past ten minutes been uneasily luffing and
filling in the offing and, on the whole, steadily diminishing and becoming
more pale and wan and emaciated and indistinct--there was that in the
laughter of Philip Kirkwood, I say, which caused the Shade of Care to utter
a hollow croak of despair as, incontinently, it vanished out of his life.

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