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The Brass Bowl by Louis Joseph Vance

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THE BRASS BOWL

BY
LOUIS JOSEPH VANCE

1907

I

DUST

In the dull hot dusk of a summer's day a green touring-car,
swinging out of the East Drive, pulled up smartly, trembling, at
the edge of the Fifty-ninth Street car-tracks, then more sedately,
under the dispassionate but watchful eye of a mounted member of
the Traffic Squad, lurched across the Plaza and merged itself in
the press of vehicles south-bound on the Avenue.

Its tonneau held four young men, all more or less disguised in
dust, dusters and goggles; forward, by the side of the grimy and
anxious-eyed mechanic, sat a fifth, in all visible respects the
counterpart of his companions. Beneath his mask, and by this I do
not mean his goggles, but the mask of modern manner which the
worldly wear, he was, and is, different.

He was Daniel Maitland, Esquire; for whom no further introduction
should be required, after mention of the fact that he was, and
remains, the identical gentleman of means and position in the
social and financial worlds, whose somewhat sober but sincere and
whole-hearted participation in the wildest of conceivable
escapades had earned him the affectionate regard of the younger
set, together with the sobriquet of "Mad Maitland."

His companions of the day, the four in the tonneau, were in that
humor of subdued yet vibrant excitement which is apt to attend the
conclusion of a long, hard drive over country roads. Maitland, on
the other hand, (judging him by his preoccupied pose), was already
weary of, if not bored by, the hare-brained enterprise which,
initiated on the spur of an idle moment and directly due to a
thoughtless remark of his own, had brought him a hundred miles (or
so) through the heat of a broiling afternoon, accompanied by
spirits as ardent and irresponsible as his own, in search of the
dubious distraction afforded by the night side of the city.

As, picking its way with elephantine nicety, the motor-car
progressed down the Avenue--twilight deepening, arcs upon their
bronze columns blossoming suddenly, noiselessly into spheres of
opalescent radiance--Mr. Maitland ceased to respond, ceased even
to give heed, to the running fire of chaff (largely personal)
which amused his companions. Listlessly engaged with a cigarette,
he lounged upon the green leather cushions, half closing his eyes,
and heartily wished himself free for the evening.

But he stood committed to the humor of the majority, and lacked
entirely the shadow of an excuse to desert; in addition to which
he was altogether too lazy for the exertion of manufacturing a Lie
of serviceable texture. And so abandoned himself to his fate, even
though he foresaw with weariful particularity the programme of the
coming hours.

To begin with, thirty minutes were to be devoted to a bath and
dressing in his rooms. This was something not so unpleasant to
contemplate. It was the afterwards that repelled him: the dinner
at Sherry's, the subsequent tour of roof gardens, the late supper
at a club, and then, prolonged far into the small hours, the
session around some green-covered table in a close room reeking
with the fumes of good tobacco and hot with the fever of
gambling....

Abstractedly Maitland frowned, tersely summing up: "Beastly!"--in
an undertone.

At this the green car wheeled abruptly round a corner below
Thirty-fourth Street, slid half a block or more east, and came to
a palpitating halt. Maitland, looking up, recognized the entrance
to his apartments, and sighed with relief for the brief respite
from boredom that was to be his. He rose, negligently shaking off
his duster, and stepped down to the sidewalk.

Somebody in the car called a warning after him, and turning for a
moment he stood at attention, an eyebrow raised quizzically,
cigarette drooping from a corner of his mouth, hat pushed back
from his forehead, hands in coat pockets: a tall, slender,
sparely-built figure of a man, clothed immaculately in flannels.

When at length he was able to make himself heard, "Good enough,"
he said clearly, though without raising his voice. "Sherry's in an
hour. Right. Now, behave yourselves."

"Mind you show up on time!"

"Never fear," returned Maitland over his shoulder.

A witticism was flung back at him from the retreating car, but
spent itself unregarded. Maitland's attention was temporarily
distracted by the unusual--to say the least--sight of a young and
attractive woman coming out of a home for confirmed bachelors.

The apartment house happened to be his own property. A substantial
and old-fashioned edifice, situated in the middle of a quiet
block, it contained but five roomy and comfortable suites,
--in other words, one to a floor; and these were without
exception tenanted by unmarried men of Maitland's own circle and
acquaintance. The janitor, himself a widower and a convinced
misogynist, lived alone in the basement. Barring very special and
exceptional occasions (as when one of the bachelors felt called
upon to give a tea in partial recognition of social obligations),
the foot of woman never crossed its threshold.

In this circumstance, indeed, was comprised the singular charm the
house had for its occupants. The quality which insured them privacy
and a quiet independence rendered them oblivious to its many minor
drawbacks, its lack of many conveniences and luxuries which have
of late grown to be so commonly regarded as necessities. It boasted,
for instance, no garage; no refrigerating system maddened those
dependent upon it; a dissipated electric lighting system never went
out of nights, because it had never been installed; no brass-bound
hall-boy lounged in desuetude upon the stoop and took too intimate
and personal an interest in the tenants' correspondence. The
inhabitants, in brief, were free to come and go according to the
dictates of their consciences, unsupervised by neighborly women-folk,
unhindered by a parasitic corps of menials not in their personal
employ.

Wherefore was Maitland astonished, and the more so because of the
season. At any other season of the year he would readily have
accounted for the phenomenon that now fell under his observation,
on the hypothesis that the woman was somebody's sister or cousin
or aunt. But at present that explanation was untenable; Maitland
happened to know that not one of the other men was in New York,
barring himself; and his own presence there was a thing entirely
unforeseen.

Still incredulous, he mentally conned the list: Barnes, who
occupied the first flat, was traveling on the Continent; Conkling,
of the third, had left a fortnight since to join a yachting party
on the Mediterranean; Bannister and Wilkes, of the fourth and
fifth floors, respectively, were in Newport and Buenos Aires.

"Odd!" concluded Maitland.

So it was. She had just closed the door, one thought; and now
stood poised as if in momentary indecision on the low stoop,
glancing toward Fifth Avenue the while she fumbled with a
refractory button at the wrist of a long white kid glove. Blurred
though it was by the darkling twilight and a thin veil, her face
yet conveyed an impression of prettiness: an impression enhanced
by careful grooming. From her hat, a small affair, something
green, with a superstructure of grey ostrich feathers, to the tips
of her russet shoes,--including a walking skirt and bolero of
shimmering grey silk,--she was distinctly "smart" and interesting.

He had keenly observant eyes, had Maitland, for all his detached
pose; you are to understand that he comprehended all these points
in the flickering of an instant. For the incident was over in two
seconds. In one the lady's hesitation was resolved; in another she
had passed down the steps and swept by Maitland without giving him
a glance, without even the trembling of an eyelash. And he had a
view of her back as she moved swiftly away toward the Avenue.

Perplexed, he lingered upon the stoop until she had turned the
corner; after which he let himself in with a latch-key, and,
dismissing the affair temporarily from his thoughts, or pretending
to do so, ascended the single flight of stairs to his flat.

Simultaneously heavy feet were to be heard clumping up the
basement steps; and surmising that the janitor was coming to light
the hall, the young man waited, leaning over the balusters. His
guess proving correct, he called down:

"O'Hagan? Is that you?"

"Th' saints presarve us! But 'twas yersilf gave me th' sthart,
Misther Maitland, sor!" O'Hagan paused in the gloom below, his
upturned face quaintly illuminated by the flame of a wax taper in
his gaslighter.

"I'm dining in town to-night, O'Hagan, and dropped around to
dress. Is anybody else at home?"

"Nivver a wan, sor. Shure, th' house do be quiet's anny tomb--"

"Then who was that lady, O'Hagan?"

"Leddy, sor?"--in unbounded amazement.

"Yes," impatiently. "A young woman left the house just as I was
coming in. Who was she?"

"Shure an' I think ye must be dr'amin', sor. Divvle a female--
rayspicts to ye!--has been in this house for manny an' manny th'
wake, sor."

"But, I tell you--"

"Belike 'twas somewan jist sthepped into the vesthibule, mebbe to
tie her shoe, sor, and ye thought--"

"Oh, very well." Maitland relinquished the inquisition as
unprofitable, willing to concede O'Hagan's theory a reasonable
one, the more readily since he himself could by no means have
sworn that the woman had actually come out through the door. Such
had merely been his impression, honest enough, but founded on
circumstantial evidence.

"When you're through, O'Hagan," he told the Irishman, "you may
come and shave me and lay out my things, if you will."

"Very good, sor. In wan minute."

But O'Hagan's conception of the passage of time was a thought
vague: his one minute had lengthened into ten before he appeared
to wait upon his employer.

Now and again, in the absence of the regular "man," O'Hagan would
attend one or another of the tenants in the capacity of substitute
valet: as in the present instance, when Maitland, having left his
host's roof without troubling even to notify his body-servant that
he would not return that night, called upon the janitor to
understudy the more trained employee; which O'Hagan could be
counted upon to do very acceptably.

Now, with patience unruffled, since he was nothing keen for the
evening's enjoyment, Maitland made profit of the interval to
wander through his rooms, lighting the gas here and there and
noting that all was as it should be, as it had been left--save
that every article of furniture and bric-a-brac seemed to be sadly
in want of a thorough dusting. In the end he brought up in the
room that served him as study and lounge,--the drawing-room of the
flat, as planned in the forgotten architect's scheme,--a large and
well-lighted apartment overlooking the street. Here, pausing
beneath the chandelier, he looked about him for a moment,
determining that, as elsewhere, all things were in order--but grey
with dust.

Finding the atmosphere heavy, stale, and oppressive, Maitland
moved over to the windows and threw them open. A gush of warm air,
humid and redolent of the streets, invaded the room, together with
the roar of traffic from its near-by arteries. Maitland rested
elbows on the sill and leaned out, staring absently into the
night; for by now it was quite dark. Without concern, he realized
that he would be late at dinner. No matter; he would as willingly
miss it altogether. For the time being he was absorbed in vain
speculations about an unknown woman whose sole claim upon his
consideration lay in a certain but immaterial glamour of mystery.
Had she, or had she not, been in the house? And, if the true
answer were in the affirmative: to what end, upon what errand?

His eyes focused insensibly upon a void of darkness beneath him,--
night made visible by street lamps; and he found himself suddenly
and acutely sensible of the wonder and mystery of the City: the
City whose secret life ran fluent upon the hot, hard pavements
below, whose voice throbbed, sibilant, vague, strident,
inarticulate, upon the night air; the City of which he was a part
equally with the girl in grey, whom he had never before seen, and
in all likelihood was never to see again, though the two of them
were to work out their destinies within the bounds of Manhattan
Island. And yet....

"It would be strange," said Maitland thoughtfully, "if...." He
shook his head, smiling. "_Two shall be born,_'" quoted Mad
Maitland sentimentally,--

"'_Two shall be born the whole wide world apart--_'"

A piano organ, having maliciously sneaked up beneath his window,
drove him indoors with a crash of metallic melody.

As he dropped the curtains his eye was arrested by a gleam of
white upon his desk,--a letter placed there, doubtless, by O'Hagan
in Maitland's absence. At the same time, a splashing and gurgling
of water from the direction of the bath-room informed him that the
janitor-valet was even then preparing his bath. But that could
wait.

Maitland took up the envelope and tore the flap, remarking the
name and address of his lawyer in its upper left-hand corner.
Unfolding the inclosure, he read a date a week old, and two lines
requesting him to communicate with his legal adviser upon "a
matter of pressing moment."

"Bother!" said Maitland. "What the dickens--"

He pulled up short, eyes lighting. "That's so, you know," he
argued: "Bannerman will be delighted, and--and even business is
better than rushing round town and pretending to enjoy yourself
when it's hotter than the seven brass hinges of hell and you can't
think of anything else.... I'll do it!"

He stepped quickly to the corner of the room, where stood the
telephone upon a small side table, sat down, and, receiver to ear,
gave Central a number. In another moment he was in communication
with his attorney's residence.

"Is Mr. Bannerman in? I would like to--"

* * * * *

"Why, Mr. Bannerman! How _do_ you do?"

* * * * *

"You're looking a hundred per cent better--"

* * * * *

"Bad, bad word! Naughty!--"

"Maitland, of course."

* * * * *

"Been out of town and just got your note."

* * * * *

"Your beastly penchant for economy. It's not stamped; I presume
you sent it round by hand of the future President of the United
States whom you now employ as office-boy. And O'Hagan didn't
forward it for that reason."

* * * * *

"Important, eh? I'm only in for the night--"

* * * * *

"Then come and dine with me at the Primordial. I'll put the others
off."

* * * * *

"Good enough. In an hour, then? Good-by." Hanging up the receiver,
Maitland waited a few moments ere again putting it to his ear.
This time he called up Sherry's, asked for the head-waiter, and,
requested that person to be kind enough to make his excuses to
"Mr. Cressy and his party": he, Maitland, was detained upon a
matter of moment, but would endeavor to join them at a later hour.

Then, with a satisfied smile, he turned away, with purpose to
dispose of Bannerman's note.

"Bath's ready, sor."

O'Hagan's announcement fell upon heedless ears. Maitland remained
motionless before the desk--transfixed with amazement.

"Bath's ready, sor!"--imperatively.

Maitland roused slightly.

"Very well; in a minute, O'Hagan."

Yet for some time he did not move. Slowly the heavy brows
contracted over intent eyes as he strove to puzzle it out. At
length his lips moved noiselessly.

"Am I awake?" was the question he put his consciousness.

Wondering, he bent forward and drew the tip of one forefinger
across the black polished wood of the writing-bed. It left a dark,
heavy line. And beside it, clearly defined in the heavy layer of
dust, was the silhouette of a hand; a woman's hand, small,
delicate, unmistakably feminine of contour.

"Well!" declared Maitland frankly, "I _am_ damned!"

Further and closer inspection developed the fact that the imprint
had been only recently made. Within the hour,--unless Maitland
were indeed mad or dreaming,--a woman had stood by that desk and
rested a hand, palm down, upon it; not yet had the dust had time
to settle and blur the sharp outlines.

Maitland shook his head with bewilderment, thinking of the grey
girl. But no. He rejected his half-formed explanation--the obvious
one. Besides, what had he there worth a thief's while? Beyond a
few articles of "virtue and bigotry" and his pictures, there was
nothing valuable in the entire flat. His papers? But he had
nothing; a handful of letters, cheque book, a pass book, a
japanned tin despatch box containing some business memoranda and
papers destined eventually for Bannerman's hands; but nothing
negotiable, nothing worth a burglar's while.

It was a flat-topped desk, of mahogany, with two pedestals of
drawers, all locked. Maitland determined this latter fact by
trying to open them without a key; failing, his key-ring solved
the difficulty in a jiffy. But the drawers seemed undisturbed;
nothing had been either handled, or removed, or displaced, so far
as he could determine. And again he wagged his head from side to
side in solemn stupefaction.

"This is beyond you, Dan, my boy." And: "But I've got to know what
it means."

In the hall O'Hagan was shuffling impatience. Pondering deeply,
Maitland relocked the desk, and got upon his feet. A small bowl of
beaten brass, which he used as an ash-receiver, stood ready to his
hand; he took it up, carefully blew it clean of dust, and inverted
it over the print of the hand. On top of the bowl he placed a
weighty afterthought in the shape of a book.

"O'Hagan!"

"Waitin', sor."

"Come hither, O'Hagan. You see that desk?"

"Yissor."

"Are you sure?"

"Ah, faith--"

"I want you not to touch it, O'Hagan. Under penalty of my extreme
displeasure, don't lay a finger on it till I give you permission.
Don't dare to dust it. Do you understand?"

"Yissor. Very good, Mr. Maitland."

II

POST-PRANDIAL

Bannerman pushed back his chair a few inches, shifting position
the better to benefit of a faint air that fanned in through the
open window. Maitland, twisting the sticky stem of a liqueur glass
between thumb and forefinger, sat in patient waiting for the
lawyer to speak.

But Bannerman was in no hurry; his mood was rather one
contemplative and genial. He was a round and cherubic little man,
with the face of a guileless child, the acumen of a successful
counsel for soulless corporations (that is to say, of a high
order), no particular sense of humor, and a great appreciation of
good eating. And Maitland was famous in his day as one thoroughly
conversant with the art of ordering a dinner.

That which they had just discussed had been uncommon in all
respects; Maitland's scheme of courses and his specification as to
details had roused the admiration of the Primordial's chef and put
him on his mettle. He had outdone himself in his efforts to do
justice to Mr. Maitland's genius; and the Primordial in its deadly
conservatism remains to this day one of the very few places in New
York where good, sound cooking is to be had by the initiate.

Therefore Bannerman sucked thoughtfully at his cigar and thought
fondly of a salad that had been to ordinary salads as his 80-H.-P.
car was to an electric buckboard. While Maitland, with all time at
his purchase, idly flicked the ash from his cigarette and followed
his attorney's meditative gaze out through the window.

Because of the heat the curtains were looped back, and there was
nothing to obstruct the view. Madison Square lay just over the
sill, a dark wilderness of foliage here and there made livid green
by arc-lights. Its walks teemed with humanity, its benches were
crowded. Dimly from its heart came the cool plashing of the
fountain, in lulls that fell unaccountably in the roaring rustle
of restless feet. Over across, Broadway raised glittering walls of
glass and stone; and thence came the poignant groan and rumble of
surface cars crawling upon their weary and unvarying rounds.

And again Maitland thought of the City, and of Destiny, and of the
grey girl the silhouette of whose hand was imprisoned beneath the
brass bowl on his study desk. For by now he was quite satisfied
that she and none other had trespassed upon the privacy of his
rooms, obtaining access to them in his absence by means as
unguessable as her motive. Momentarily he considered taking
Bannerman into his confidence; but he questioned the advisability
of this: Bannerman was so severely practical in his outlook upon
life, while this adventure had been so madly whimsical, so
engagingly impossible. Bannerman would be sure to suggest a call
at the precinct police station.... If she had made way with
anything, it would be different; but so far as Maitland had been
able to determine, she had abstracted nothing, disturbed nothing
beyond a few square inches of dust....

Unwillingly Bannerman put the salad out of mind and turned to the
business whose immediate moment had brought them together. He
hummed softly, calling his client to attention. Maitland came out
of his reverie, vaguely smiling.

"I'm waiting, old man. What's up?"

"The Graeme business. His lawyers have been after me again. I even
had a call from the old man himself."

"Yes? The Graeme business?" Maitland's expression was blank for a
moment; then comprehension informed his eyes. "Oh, yes; in
connection with the Dougherty investment swindle."

"That's it. Graeme's pleading for mercy."

Maitland lifted his shoulders significantly. "That was to be
expected, wasn't it? What did you tell him?"

"That I'd see you."

"Did you hold out to him any hopes that I'd be easy on the gang?"

"I told him that I doubted if you could be induced to let up."

"Then why--?"

"Why, because Graeme himself is as innocent of wrong-doing and
wrong-intent as you are."

"You believe that?"

"I do," affirmed Bannerman. His fat pink fingers drummed uneasily
on the cloth for a few moments. "There isn't any question that the
Dougherty people induced you to sink your money in their
enterprise with intent to defraud you."

"I should think not," Maitland interjected, amused.

"But old man Graeme was honest, in intention at least. He meant no
harm; and in proof of that he offers to shoulder your loss
himself, if by so doing he can induce you to drop further
proceedings. That proves he's in earnest, Dan, for although Graeme
is comfortably well to do, it's a known fact that the loss of a
cool half-million, while it's a drop in the bucket to you, would
cripple him."

"Then why doesn't he stand to his associates, and make them each
pay back their fair share of the loot? That'd bring his liability
down to about fifty thousand."

"Because they won't give up without a contest in the courts. They
deny your proofs--you have those papers, haven't you?"

"Safe, under lock and key," asserted Maitland sententiously. "When
the time comes I'll produce them."

"And they incriminate Graeme?"

"They make it look as black for him as for the others. Do you
honestly believe him innocent, Bannerman?"

"I do, implicitly. The dread of exposure, the fear of notoriety
when the case comes up in court, has aged the man ten years. He
begged me with tears in his eyes to induce you to drop it and
accept his offer of restitution. Don't you think you could do it,
Dan?"

"No, I don't." Maitland shook his head with decision. "If I let
up, the scoundrels get off scot-free. I have nothing against
Graeme; I am willing to make it as light as I can for him; but
this business has got to be aired in the courts; the guilty will
have to suffer. It will be a lesson to the public, a lesson to the
scamps, and a lesson to Graeme--not to lend his name too freely to
questionable enterprises."

"And that's your final word, is it?"

"Final, Bannerman.... You go ahead; prepare your case and take it
to court. When the time comes, as I say, I'll produce these
papers. I can't go on this way, letting people believe that I'm an
easy mark just because I was unfortunate enough to inherit more
money than is good for my wholesome."

Maitland twisted his eyebrows in deprecation of Bannerman's
attitude; signified the irrevocability of his decision by bringing
his fist down upon the table--but not heavily enough to disturb
the other diners; and, laughing, changed the subject.

For some moments he gossiped cheerfully of his new power-boat,
Bannerman attending to the inconsequent details with an air of
abstraction. Once or twice he appeared about to interrupt, but
changed his mind: but because his features were so wholly
infantile and open and candid, the time came when Maitland could
no longer ignore his evident perturbation.

"Now what's the trouble?" he demanded with a trace of asperity.
"Can't you forget that Graeme business and--"

"Oh, it's not that." Bannerman dismissed the troubles of Mr.
Graeme with an airy wave of a pudgy hand. "That's not my funeral,
nor yours.... Only I've been worried, of late, by your utterly
careless habits."

Maitland looked his consternation. "In heaven's name, what now?"
And grinned as he joined hands before him in simulated petition.
"Please don't read me a lecture just now, dear boy. If you've got
something dreadful on your chest wait till another day, when I'm
more in the humor to be found fault with."

"No lecture." Bannerman laughed nervously. "I've merely been
wondering what you have done with the Maitland heirlooms."

"What? Oh, those things? They're safe enough--_in_ the safe
out at Greenfields."

"To be sure! Quite so!" agreed the lawyer, with ironic heartiness.
"Oh, quite." And proceeded to take all Madison Square into his
confidence, addressing it from the window. "Here's a young man,
sole proprietor of a priceless collection of family heirlooms,--
diamonds, rubies, sapphires galore; and he thinks they're safe
enough _in_ a safe at his country residence, fifty miles from
anywhere! What a simple, trustful soul it is!"

"Why should I bother?" argued Maitland sulkily. "It's a good,
strong safe, and--and there are plenty of servants around," he
concluded largely.

"Precisely. Likewise plenty of burglars. You don't suppose a
determined criminal like Anisty, for instance, would bother
himself about a handful of thick-headed servants, do you?"

"Anisty?"--with a rising inflection of inquiry.

Bannerman squared himself to face his host, elbows bows on table.
"You don't mean to say you've not heard of Anisty, the great
Anisty?" he demanded.

"I dare say I have," Maitland conceded, unperturbed. "Name rings
familiar, somehow."

"Anisty,"--deliberately, "is said to be the greatest jewel thief
the world has ever known. He has the police of America and Europe
by the ears to catch him. They have been hot on his trail for the
past three years, and would have nabbed him a dozen times if only
he'd had the grace to stay in one place long enough. The man who
made off with the Bracegirdle diamonds, smashing a burglar-proof
vault into scrap-iron to get 'em--don't you remember?"

"Ye-es; I seem to recall the affair, now that you mention it,"
Maitland admitted, bored. "Well, and what of Mr. Anisty?"

"Only what I have told you, taken in connection with the
circumstance that he is known to be in New York, and that the
Maitland heirlooms are tolerably famous--as much so as your
careless habits, Dan. Now, a safe deposit vault--"

"Um-m-m," considered Maitland. "You really believe that Mr. Anisty
has his bold burglarious eye on my property?"

"It's a big enough haul to attract him," argued the lawyer
earnestly; "Anisty always aims high.... Now, _will_ you do
what I have been begging you to do for the past eight years?"

"Seven," corrected Maitland punctiliously. "It's just seven years
since I entered into mine inheritance and you became my
counselor."

"Well, seven, then. But will you put those jewels in safe
deposit?"

"Oh, I suppose so."

"But when?"

"Would it suit you if I ran out to-night?" Maitland demanded so
abruptly that Bannerman was disconcerted.

"I--er--ask nothing better."

"I'll bring them in town to-morrow. You arrange about the vault
and advise me, will you, like a good fellow?"

"Bless my soul! I never dreamed that you would be so--so--"

"Amenable to discipline?" Maitland grinned, boylike, and, leaning
back, appreciated Bannerman's startled expression with keen
enjoyment. "Well, consider that for once you've scared me. I'm
off--just time to catch the ten-twenty for Greenfields. Waiter!"

He scrawled his initials at the bottom of the bill presented him,
and rose. "Sorry, Bannerman," he said, chuckling, "to cut short a
pleasant evening. But you shouldn't startle me so, you know.
Pardon me if I run; I _might_ miss that train."

"But there was something else--"

"It can wait."

"Take a later train, then."

"What! With this grave peril hanging over me? _Im_possible!
'Night."

Bannerman, discomfited, saw Maitland's shoulders disappear through
the dining-room doorway, meditated pursuit, thought better of it,
and reseated himself, frowning.

"Mad Maitland, indeed!" he commented.

As for the gentleman so characterized, he emerged, a moment later,
from the portals of the club, still chuckling mildly to himself as
he struggled into a light evening overcoat. His temper, having run
the gamut of boredom, interest, perturbation, mystification, and
plain amusement, was now altogether inconsequential: a dangerous
mood for Maitland. Standing on the corner of Twenty-sixth Street
he thought it over, tapping the sidewalk gently with his cane.
Should he or should he not carry out his intention as declared to
Bannerman, and go to Greenfields that same night? Or should he
keep his belated engagement with Cressy's party?

An errant cabby, cruising aimlessly but hopefully, sighted
Maitland's tall figure and white shirt from a distance, and bore
down upon him with a gallant clatter of hoofs.

"Kebsir?" he demanded breathlessly, pulling in at the corner.

Maitland came out of his reverie and looked up slowly. "Why yes,
thank you," he assented amiably.

"Where to, sir?"

Maitland paused on the forward deck of the craft and faced about,
looking the cabby trustfully in the eye. "I leave it to you," he
replied politely. "Just as you please."

The driver gasped.

"You see," Maitland continued with a courteous smile, "I have two
engagements: one at Sherry's, the other with the ten-twenty train
from Long Island City. What would you, as man to man, advise me to
do, cabby?"

"Well, sir, seein' as you puts it to me straight," returned the
cabby with engaging candor, "I'd go home, sir, if I was you, afore
I got any worse."

"Thank you," gravely. "Long Island City depot, then, cabby."

Maitland extended himself languidly upon the cushions. "Surely,"
he told the night, "the driver knows best--he and Bannerman."

The cab started off jogging so sedately up Madison Avenue that
Maitland glanced at his watch and elevated his brows dubiously;
then with his stick poked open the trap in the roof.

"If you really think it best for me to go home, cabby, you'll have
to drive like hell," he suggested mildly.

"Yessir!"

A whip-lash cracked loudly over the horse's back, and the hansom,
lurching into Thirty-fourth Street on one wheel, was presently
jouncing eastward over rough cobbles, at a regardless pace which
roused the gongs of the surface cars to a clangor of hysterical
expostulation. In a trice the "L" extension was roaring overhead;
and a little later the ferry gates were yawning before them. Again
Maitland consulted his watch, commenting briefly: "In time."

Yet he reckoned without the ferry, one of whose employees
deliberately and implacably swung to the gates in the very face of
the astonished cab-horse, which promptly rose upon its hind legs
and pawed the air with gestures of pardonable exasperation. To no
avail, however; the gates remained closed, the cabby (with
language) reined his steed back a yard or two, and Maitland,
lighting a cigarette, composed himself to simulate patience.

Followed a wait of ten minutes or so, in which a number of
vehicles joined company with the cab; the passenger was vaguely
aware of the jarring purr of a motor-car, like that of some huge
cat, in the immediate rear. A circumstance which he had occasion
to recall ere long.

In the course of time the gates were again opened. The bridge
cleared of incoming traffic. As the cabby drove aboard the boat,
with nice consideration selecting the choicest stand of all, well
out upon the forward deck, a motor-car slid in, humming, on the
right of the hansom.

Maitland sat forward, resting his forearms on the apron, and
jerked his cigarette out over the gates; the glowing stub
described a fiery arc and took the water with a hiss. Warm whiffs
of the river's sweet and salty breath fanned his face gratefully,
and he became aware that there was a moon. His gaze roving at
will, he nodded an even-tempered approbation of the night's
splendor: in the city a thing unsuspected.

Never, he thought, had he known moonlight so pure, so silvery and
strong. Shadows of gates and posts lay upon the forward deck like
stencils of lamp-black upon white marble. Beyond the boat's
bluntly rounded nose the East River stretched its restless, dark
reaches, glossy black, woven with gorgeous ribbons of reflected
light streaming from pier-head lamps on the further shore.
Overhead, the sky, a pallid and luminous blue around the low-swung
moon, was shaded to profound depths of bluish-black toward the
horizon. Above Brooklyn rested a tenuous haze. A revenue cutter, a
slim, pale shape, cut across the bows like a hunted ghost. Farther
out a homeward-bound excursion steamer, tier upon tier of
glittering lights, drifted slowly toward its pier beneath the new
bridge, the blare of its band, swelling and dying upon the night
breeze, mercifully tempered by distance.

Presently Maitland's attention was distracted and drawn, by the
abrupt cessation of its motor's pulsing, to the automobile on his
right. He lifted his chin sharply, narrowing his eyes, whistled
low; and thereafter had eyes for nothing else.

The car, he saw with the experienced eye of a connoisseur, was a
recent model of one of the most expensive and popular foreign
makes: built on lines that promised a deal in the way of speed,
and furnished with engines that were pregnant with multiplied
horse-power: all in all not the style of car one would expect to
find controlled by a solitary woman, especially after ten of a
summer's night.

Nevertheless the lone occupant of this car was a woman. And there
was that in her bearing, an indefinable something,--whether it lay
in the carriage of her head, which impressed one as both spirited
and independent, or in an equally certain but less tangible air of
self-confidence and reliance,--to set Mad Maitland's pulses
drumming with excitement. For, unless indeed he labored gravely
under a misapprehension, he was observing her for the second time
within the past few hours.

Could he be mistaken, or was this in truth the same woman who had
(as he believed) made herself free of his rooms that evening?

In confirmation of such suspicion he remarked her costume, which
was altogether worked out in soft shades of grey. Grey was the
misty veil, drawn in and daintily knotted beneath her chin, which
lent her head and face such thorough protection against prying
glances; of grey suede were the light gauntlets that hid all save
the slenderness of her small hands; and the wrap that, cut upon
full and flowing lines, cloaked her figure beyond suggestion, was
grey. Yet even its ample drapery could not dissemble the fact that
she was quite small, girlishly slight, like the woman in the
doorway; nor did aught temper her impersonal and detached
composure, which had also been an attribute of the woman in the
door-way. And, again, she was alone, unchaperoned, unprotected....

Yes? Or no? And, if yes: what to do? Was he to alight and accost
her, accuse her of forcing an entrance to his rooms for the sole
purpose (as far as ascertainable) of presenting him with the
outline of her hand in the dust of his desk's top?... Oh, hardly!
It was all very well to be daringly eccentric and careless of the
world's censure; but one scarcely cared to lay one's self open
either to an unknown girl's derision or to a sound pummeling at
the hands of fellow passengers enraged by the insult offered to an
unescorted woman....

The young man was still pondering ways and means when a dull bump
apprised him that the ferry-boat was entering the Long Island City
slip. "The devil!" he exclaimed in mingled disgust and dismay,
realizing that his distraction had been so thorough as to permit
the voyage to take place almost without his realizing it. So that
now--worse luck!--it was too late to take any one of the hundred
fantastic steps he had contemplated half seriously. In another two
minutes his charming mystery, so bewitchingly incarnated, would
have slipped out of his life, finally and beyond recall. And he
could do naught to hinder such a finale to the adventure.

Sulkily he resigned himself to the inevitable, waiting and watching,
while the boat slid and blundered clumsily, paddle-wheels churning
the filthy waters over side, to the floating bridge; while the
winches rattled, and the woman, sitting up briskly in the driver's
seat of the motor-car, bent forward and advanced the spark; while
the chain fell clanking and the car shot out, over the bridge,
through the gates, and away, at a very considerable, even if lawful,
rate of speed.

Whereupon, writing _Finis_ to the final chapter of Romance,
voting the world a dull place and life a treadmill, anathematizing
in no uncertain terms his lack of resource and address, Maitland
paid off his cabby, alighted, and to that worthy's boundless
wonder, walked into the waiting-room of the railway terminus
without deviating a hair's-breadth from the straight and
circumscribed path of the sober in mind and body.

The ten-twenty had departed by a bare two minutes. The next and
last train for Greenfields was to leave at ten-fifty-nine.
Maitland with assumed nonchalance composed himself upon a bench in
the waiting-room to endure the thirty-seven minute interval. Five
minutes later an able-bodied washerwoman with six children in
quarter sizes descended upon the same bench; and the young man in
desperation allowed himself to be dispossessed. The news-stand
next attracting him, he garnered a fugitive amusement and two
dozen copper cents by the simple process of purchasing six "night
extras," which he did not want, and paying for each with a
five-cent piece. Comprehending, at length, that he had irritated
the news-dealer, he meandered off, jingling his copper-fortune in
one hand, lugging his newspapers in the other, and made a
determined onslaught upon a slot machine. The latter having
reluctantly disgorged twenty-four assorted samples of chewing-gum
and stale sweetmeats, Maitland returned to the washerwoman, and
sowed dissension in her brood by presenting the treasure-horde to
the eldest girl with instructions to share it with her brothers
and sisters.

It is difficult to imagine what folly might next have been
recorded against him had not, at that moment, a ferocious and
inarticulate howl from the train-starter announced the fact that
the ten-fifty-nine was in waiting.

Boarding the train in a thankful spirit, Maitland settled himself
as comfortably as he might in the smoker and endeavored to find
surcease of ennui in his collection of extras. In vain: even a
two-column portrait of Mr. Dan Anisty, cracksman, accompanied by a
vivacious catalogue of that notoriety's achievements in the field
of polite burglary, hardly stirred his interest. An elusive
resemblance which he traced in the features of Mr. Anisty, as
presented by the Sketch-Artist-on-the-Spot, to some one whom he,
Maitland, had known in the dark backwards and abysm of time,
merely drew from him the comment: "Homely brute!" And he laid the
papers aside, cradling his chin in the palm of one hand and
staring for a weary while out of the car window at a reeling and
moonsmitten landscape. He yawned exhaustively, his thoughts astray
between a girl garbed all in grey, Bannerman's earnest and
thoughtful face, and the pernicious activities of Mr. Daniel
Anisty, at whose door Maitland laid the responsibility for this
most fatiguing errand....

The brakeman's wolf-like yelp--"Greenfields!"--was ringing in his
ears when he awoke and stumbled down aisle and car-steps just in
the nick of time. The train, whisking round a curve cloaked by a
belt of somber pines, left him quite alone in the world, cast
ruthlessly upon his own resources.

An hour had elapsed; it was now midnight; the moon rode high, a
cold white disk against a background of sapphire velvet, its
pellucid rays revealing with disheartening distinctness the
inanimate and lightless roadside hamlet called Greenfields; its
general store and postoffice, its _soi-disant_ hotel, its
straggling line of dilapidated habitations, all wrapped in silence
profound and impenetrable. Not even a dog howled; not a belated
villager was in sight; and it was a moral certainty that the local
livery service had closed down for the night.

Nevertheless, Maitland, with a desperation bred of the prospective
five-mile tramp, spent some ten valuable minutes hammering upon
the door of the house infested by the proprietor of the livery
stable. He succeeded only in waking the dog, and inasmuch as he
was not on friendly terms with that animal, presently withdrew at
discretion and set his face northwards upon the open road.

It stretched before him invitingly enough, a ribbon winding
silver-white between dark patches of pine and scrub-oak or fields
lush with rustling corn and wheat. And, having overcome his
primary disgust, as the blood began to circulate more briskly in
his veins, Maitland became aware that he was actually enjoying the
enforced exercise. It could have been hardly otherwise, with a
night so sweet, with airs so bland and fragrant of the woods and
fresh-turned earth, with so clear a light to show him his way.

He stepped out briskly at first, swinging his stick and watching
his shadow, a squat, incredibly agitated silhouette in the golden
dust. But gradually and insensibly the peaceful influences of that
still and lovely hour tempered his heart's impatience; and he
found himself walking at a pace more leisurely. After all, there
was no hurry; he was unwearied, and Maitland Manor lay less than
five miles distant.

Thirty minutes passed; he had not covered a third of the way, yet
remained content. By well-remembered landmarks, he knew he must be
nearing the little stream called, by courtesy, Myannis River; and
in due course, he stepped out upon the long wooden structure that
spans that water. He was close upon the farther end when--upon a
hapchance impulse--he glanced over the nearest guard-rail, down at
the bed of the creek. And stopped incontinently, gaping.

Stationary in the middle of the depression, hub-deep in the
shallow waters, was a motor-car; and it, beyond dispute, was
identical with that which had occupied his thoughts on the
ferry-boat. Less wonderful, perhaps, but to him amazing enough, it
was to discover upon the driver's seat the girl in grey.

His brain benumbed beyond further capacity for astonishment, he
accepted without demur this latest and most astounding of the
chain of amazing coincidences which had thus far enlivened the
night's earlier hours; and stood rapt in silent contemplation,
sensible that the girl had been unaware of his approach, deadened
as his footsteps must have been by the blanket of dust that
carpeted both road and bridge deep and thick.

On her part she sat motionless, evidently lost in reverie, and
momentarily, at least, unconscious of the embarrassing predicament
which was hers. So complete, indeed, seemed her abstraction that
Maitland caught himself questioning the reality of her.... And
well might she have seemed to him a pale little wraith of the
night, the shimmer of grey that she made against the shimmer of
light on the water,--a shape almost transparent, slight, and
unsubstantial--seeming to contemplate, and as still as any
mouse....

Looking more attentively, it became evident that her veil was now
raised. This was the first time that he had seen her so. But her
countenance remained so deeply shadowed by the visor of a mannish
motoring-cap that the most searching scrutiny gained no more than
a dim and scantily satisfactory impression of alluring loveliness.

Maitland turned noiselessly, rested elbows on the rail, and,
staring, framed a theory to account for her position, if not for
her patience.

On either hand the road, dividing, struck off at a tangent, down
the banks and into the river-bed. It was credible to presume that
the girl had lost control of the machine temporarily and that it,
taking the bit between its teeth, had swung gaily down the incline
to its bath.

Why she lingered there, however, was less patent. The water, as
has been indicated, was some inches below the tonneau; it did not
seem reasonable to assume that it should have interfered with
either running-gear or motor....

At this point in Maitland's meditations the grey girl appeared to
have arrived at a decision. She straightened up suddenly, with a
little resolute nod of her head, lifting one small foot to her
knee, and fumbled with the laces of her shoe.

Maitland grasped her intention to abandon the machine, with her
determination to wade! Clearly this would seem to demonstrate that
there had been a breakdown, irreparable so far as frail feminine
hands were concerned.

One shoe removed, its fellow would follow, and then.... Out of
sheer chivalry, the involuntary witness was moved to earnest
protest.

"Don't!" he cried hastily. "I say, don't wade!"

Her superb composure claimed his admiration. Absolutely ignorant
though she had been of his proximity, the voice from out of the
skies evidently alarmed her not at all. Still bending over the
lifted foot, she turned her head slowly and looked up; and "Oh!"
said a small voice tinged with relief. And coolly knotting the
laces again, she sat up. "I didn't hear you, you know."

"Nor I see you," Maitland supplemented unblushingly, "until a
moment ago. I--er--can I be of assistance?"

"Can't you?"

"Idiot!" said Maitland severely, both to and of himself. Aloud: "I
think I can."

"I hope so,"--doubtfully. "It's very unfortunate. I ... was running
rather fast, I suppose, and didn't see the slope until too late.
_Now_," opening her hands in a gesture ingenuously charming
with its suggestion of helplessness and dependence, "I don't know
what _can_ be the matter with the machine."

"I'm coming down," announced Maitland briefly. "Wait."

"Thank you, I shall."

She laughed, and Maitland could have blushed for his inanity;
happily he had action to cloak his embarrassment. In a twinkling
he was at the water's edge, pausing there to listen, with
admirable docility, to her plaintive objection: "But you'll get
wet and--and ruin your things. I can't ask that of you."

He chuckled, by way of reply, slapping gallantly into the shallows
and courageously wading out to the side of the car. Whereupon he
was advised in tones of fluttered indignation:

"You simply _wouldn't_ listen to me! And I _warned_ you!
Now you're soaking wet and will certainly catch your death of
cold, and--and what can _I_ do? Truly, I am sorry...."

Here the young man lost track of her remark. He was looking up
into the shadow of the motoring-cap, discovering things; for the
shadow was set at naught by the moon luster that, reflected from
the surface of the stream, invested with a gentle and glamorous
radiance the face that bent above him. And he caught at his breath
sharply, direst fears confirmed: she was pretty indeed--perilously
pretty. The firm, resolute chin, the sensitive, sweet line of
scarlet lips, the straight little nose, the brows delicately
arched, the large, alert, tawny eyes with the dangerous sweet
shadows beneath, the glint as of raw copper where her hair caught
the light--Maitland appreciated them all far too well; and
clutched nervously the rail of the seat, trying to steady himself,
to re-collect his routed wits and consider sensibly that it all
was due to the magic of the moon, belike; the witchery of this
apparition that looked down into his eyes so gravely.

"Of course," he mumbled, "it's too beautiful to endure. Of course
it will all fade, vanish utterly in the cold light of day...."

Above him, perplexed brows gathered ominously. "I beg pardon?"

"I--er--yes," he stammered at random.

"You--er--what?"

Positively, she was laughing at him! He, Maitland the exquisite,
Mad Maitland the imperturbable, was being laughed at by a mere
child, a girl scarcely out of her teens. He glanced upward, caught
her eye a-gleam with merriment, and looked away with much vain
dignity.

"I was saying," he manufactured, "that I did not mind the wetting
in the least. I'm happy to be of service."

"You weren't saying anything of the sort," she contradicted
calmly. "However...." She paused significantly.

Maitland experienced an instantaneous sensation as of furtive
guilt, decidedly the reverse of comfortable. He shuffled uneasily.
There was a brief silence, on her part expectant, on his, blank.
His mental attitude remained hopeless: for some mysterious reason
his nonchalance had deserted him in the hour of his supremest
need; not in all his experience did he remember anything like
this--as awkward.

The river purled indifferently about his calves; a vagrant breeze
disturbed the tree-tops and died of sheer lassitude; Time plodded
on with measured stride. Then, abruptly, full-winged inspiration
was born out of the chaos of his mind. Listening intently, he
glanced with covert suspicion at the bridge: it proved untenanted,
inoffensive of mien; nor arose there any sound of hoof or wheel
upon the highway. Again he looked up at the girl; and found her in
thoughtful mood, frowning, regarding him steadily beneath level
brows.

He assumed a disarming levity of demeanor, smiling winningly.
"There's only one way," he suggested--not too archly--and extended
his arms.

"Indeed?" She considered him with pardonable dubiety.

Instantly his purpose became as adamant.

"I must carry you. It's the only way."

"Oh, indeed no! I--couldn't impose upon you. I'm--very heavy, you
know--"

"Never mind," firmly insistent. "You can't stay here all night, of
course."

"But are you sure?" (She was yielding!) "I don't like to--"

He shook his head, careful to restrain the twitching corners of
his lips.

"It will take but a moment," he urged gravely. "And I'll be quite
careful."

"Well--" She perceived that, if not right, he was stubborn; and
with a final small gesture of deprecation, weakly surrendered.
"I'm sorry to be such a nuisance," she murmured, rising and
gathering skirts about her.

Maitland stoutly denied the hideous insinuation: "I am only too
glad--"

She balanced herself lightly upon the step. He moved nearer and
assured himself of a firm foothold on the pebbly river-bed. She
sank gracefully into his arms, proving a considerable burden--
weightier, in fact, than he had anticipated. He was somewhat
staggered; it seemed that he embraced countless yards of ruffles
and things ballasted with (at a shrewd guess) lead. He swayed.

Then, recovering his equilibrium, incautiously glanced into her
eyes. And lost it again, completely.

"I was mistaken," he told himself; "daylight will but enhance...."

She held herself considerately still, perhaps wondering why he
made no move. Perhaps otherwise; there is reason to believe that
she may have suspected--being a woman.

At length, "Is there anything I can do," she inquired meekly, "to
make it easier for you?"

"I'm afraid," he replied, attitude apologetic, "that I must ask
you to put your arm around my ne--my shoulders. It would be more
natural."

"Oh."

The monosyllable was heavy with meaning--with any one of a dozen
meanings, in truth. Maitland debated the most obvious. Did she
conceive he had insinuated that it was his habit to ferry armfuls
of attractive femininity over rocky fords by the light of a
midnight moon?

No matter. While he thought it out, she was consenting. Presently
a slender arm was passed round his neck. Having awaited only that,
he began to wade cautiously shorewards. The distance lessened
perceptibly, but he contemplated the decreasing interval without
joy, for all that she was of an appreciable weight. For all
burdens there are compensations.

Unconsciously, inevitably, her head sank toward his shoulder; he
was aware of her breath, fragrant and warm, upon his cheek.... He
stopped abruptly, cold chills running up and down his back; he
gritted his teeth; he shuddered perceptibly.

"What _is_ the matter?" she demanded, deeply concerned, but
at pains not to stir.

Maitland made a strange noise with his tongue behind clenched
teeth. "_Urrrrgh,_" he said distinctly.

She lifted her head, startled; relief followed, intense and
instantaneous.

"I'm sorry," he muttered humbly, face aflame, "but you ... tickled."

"I'm--so--_sorry!_" she gasped, violently agitated. And
laughed a low, almost a silent, little laugh, as with deft fingers
she tucked away the errant lock of hair.

"Ass!" Maitland told himself fiercely, striding forward.

In another moment they were on dry land. The girl slipped from his
arms and faced him, eyes dancing, cheeks crimson, lips a tense,
quivering, scarlet line. He met this with a rueful smile.

"But--thank you--but," she gasped explosively, "it was _so_
funny!"

Wounded dignity melted before her laughter. For a time, there in
the moonlight, under the scornful regard of the disabled
motor-car's twin headlights, these two rocked and shrieked,
while the silent night flung back disdainful echoes of their mad
laughter.

Perhaps the insane incongruity of their performance first became
apparent to the girl; she, at all events, was the first to control
herself. Maitland subsided, rumbling, while she dabbed at her eyes
with a wisp of lace and linen.

"Forgive me," she said faintly, at length; "I didn't mean to--"

"How could you help it? Who'd expect a hulking brute like myself
to be ticklish?"

"You are awfully good," she countered more calmly.

"Don't say that. I'm a clumsy lout. But--" He held her gaze
inquiringly. "But may I ask--"

"Oh, of course--certainly: I am--was--bound for
Greenpoint-on-the-Sound--"

"Ten miles!" he interrupted.

The corners of her red lips drooped: her brows puckered with
dismay. Instinctively she glanced toward the waterbound car.

"What am I to do?" she cried. "Ten miles!... I could never walk
it, never in the world! You see, I went to town to-day to do a
little shopping. As we were coming home the chauffeur was arrested
for careless driving. He had bumped a delivery wagon over--it
wasn't really his fault. I telephoned home for somebody to bail
him out, and my father said he would come in. Then I dined,
returned to the police-station, and waited. Nobody came. I
couldn't stay there all night. I 'phoned to everybody I knew,
until my money gave out; no one was in town. At last, in
desperation, I started home alone."

Maitland nodded his comprehension. "Your father--?" he hinted
delicately.

"Judge Wentworth," she explained hastily. "We've taken the Grover
place at Greenpoint for the season."

"I see,"--thoughtfully. And this was the girl who he had believed
had been in his rooms that evening, in his absence! Oh, clearly,
that was impossible. Her tone rang with truth. She interrupted his
train of thought with a cry of despair. "What will they think!"

"I dare say," he ventured hopefully, "I could hire a team at some
farm-house--"

"But the delay! It's so late already!"

Undeniably late: one o'clock at the earliest. A thought longer
Maitland hung in lack of purpose, then without a word of
explanation turned and again, began to wade out.

"What do you mean to do?" she cried, surprised.

"See what's the trouble," he called back. "I know a bit about
motors. Perhaps--"

"Then--but why--"

She stopped; and Maitland forbore to encourage her to round out
her question. It was no difficult matter to supply the missing
words. Why had he not thought of investigating the motor before
insisting that he must carry her ashore?

The humiliating conviction forced itself upon him that he was not
figuring to great advantage in this adventure. Distinctly a humiliating
sensation to one who ordinarily was by way of having a fine conceit
of himself. It requires a certain amount of egotism to enable one
to play the exquisite to one's personal satisfaction; Maitland had
enjoyed the possession of that certain amount; theretofore his
approval of self had been passably entire. Now--he could not
deny--the boor had shown up through the polish of the beau.

Intolerable thought! "Cad!" exclaimed Maitland bitterly. This all
was due to hasty jumping at conclusions: if he had not chosen to
believe a young and charming girl identical with an--an
adventuress, this thing had not happened and he had still retained
his own good-will. For one little moment he despised himself
heartily--one little moment of clear insight into self was his.
And forthwith he began to meditate apologies, formulating phrases
designed to prove adequate without sounding exaggerated and
insincere.

By this time he had reached the car, and--through sheer blundering
luck--at once stumbled upon the seat of trouble: a clogged valve
in the carbureter. No serious matter: with the assistance of a
repair kit more than commonly complete, he had the valve clear in
a jiffy.

News of this triumph he shouted to the girl, receiving in reply an
"Oh, thank you!" so fervently grateful that he felt more guilty
than ever.

Ruminating unhappily on the cud of contemplated abasement, he
waded round the car, satisfying himself that there was nothing
else out of gear; and apprehensively cranked up. Whereupon the
motor began to hum contentedly: all was well. Flushed with this
success, Maitland climbed aboard and opened the throttle a trifle.
The car moved. And then, with a swish, a gurgle, and a watery
_whoosh!_ it surged forward, up, out of the river, gallantly
up the slope.

At the top the amateur chauffeur shut down the throttle and jumped
out, turning to face the girl. She was by the step almost before
he could offer a hand to help her in, and as she paused to render
him his due meed of thanks, it became evident that she harbored
little if any resentment; eyes shining, face aglow with gratitude,
she dropped him a droll but graceful little courtesy.

"You are too good!" she declared with spirit. "How can I thank
you?"

"You might," he suggested, looking down into her face from his
superior height, "give me a bit of a lift--just a couple of miles
up the road. Though," he supplemented eagerly, "if you'd really
prefer, I should be only too happy to drive the car home for you?"

"Two miles, did you say?"

He fancied something odd in her tone; besides, the question was
superfluous. His eyes informed with puzzlement, he replied: "Why,
yes--that much, more or less. I live--"

"Of course," she put in quickly, "I'll give you the lift--only too
glad. But as for your taking me home at this hour, I can't hear of
that."

"But--"

"Besides, what would people say?" she countered obstinately. "Oh,
no," she decided; and he felt that from this decision there would
be no appeal; "I couldn't think of interfering with your ... arrangements."

Her eyes held his for a single instant, instinct with mischief,
gleaming with bewildering light from out a face schooled to
gravity. Maitland experienced a sensation of having grasped after
and missed a subtlety of allusion; his wits, keen as they were,
recoiled, baffled by her finesse. And the more he divined that she
was playing with him, as an experienced swordsman might play with
an impertinent novice, the denser his confusion grew.

"But I have no arrangements--" he stammered.

"Don't!" she insisted--as much as to say that he was fabricating
and she knew it! "We must hurry, you know, because.... There, I've
dropped my handkerchief! By the tree, there. Do you mind--?"

"Of course not." He set off swiftly toward the point indicated,
but on reaching it cast about vainly for anything in the nature of
a handkerchief. In the midst of which futile quest a change of
tempo in the motor's impatient drumming surprised him.

Startled, he looked up. Too late: the girl was in the seat, the
car in motion--already some yards from the point at which he had
left it. Dismayed, he strode forward, raising his voice in
perturbed expostulation.

"But--I say--!"

Over the rear of the seat a grey gauntlet was waved at him, as
tantalizing as the mocking laugh that came to his ears.

He paused, thunderstruck, appalled by this monstrosity of
ingratitude.

The machine gathered impetus, drawing swiftly away. Yet in the
stillness the farewell of the grey girl came to him very clearly.

"Good-by!" with a laugh. "Thank you and good-by--_Handsome
Dan!_"

III

"HANDSOME DAN"

Standing in the middle of the road, watching the dust cloud that
trailed the fast disappearing motorcar, Mr. Maitland cut a figure
sufficiently forlorn and disconsolate to have distilled pity from
the least sympathetic heart.

His hands were thrust stiffly at full arm's length into his
trousers pockets: a rumpled silk hat was set awry on the back of
his head; his shirt bosom was sadly crumpled; above the knees, to
a casual glance, he presented the appearance of a man carefully
attired in evening dress; below, his legs were sodden and muddied,
his shoes of patent-leather, twin wrecks. Alas for jauntiness and
elegance, alack for ease and aplomb!

"Tricked," observed Maitland casually, and protruded his lower
lip, thus adding to the length of a countenance naturally long.
"Outwitted by a chit of a girl! Dammit!"

But this was crude melodrama. Realizing which, he strove to smile:
a sorry failure.

"'Handsome Dan,'" quoted he; and cocking his head to one side eyed
the road inquiringly. "Where in thunder d'you suppose she got hold
of _that_ name?"

Bestowed upon him in callow college days, it had stuck burr-like
for many a weary year. Of late, however, its use had lapsed among
his acquaintances; he had begun to congratulate himself upon
having lived it down. And now it was resurrected, flung at him in
sincerest mockery by a woman whom, to his knowledge, he had never
before laid eyes upon. Odious appellation, hateful invention of an
ingenious enemy!

"'Handsome Dan!' She must have known me all the time--all the time
I was making an exhibition of myself.... 'Wentworth'? I know no
one of that name. Who the dickens can she be?"

If it had not been contrary to his code of ethics, he would gladly
have raved, gnashed his teeth, footed the dance of rage with his
shadow. Indeed, his restraint was admirable, the circumstances
considered. He did nothing whatever but stand still for a matter
of five minutes, vainly racking his memory for a clue to the
identity of "Miss Wentworth."

At length he gave it up in despair and abstractedly felt for his
watch-fob. Which wasn't there. Neither, investigation developed,
was the watch. At which crowning stroke of misfortune,--the
timepiece must have slipped from his pocket into the water while
he was tinkering with that infamous carbureter,--Maitland turned
eloquently red in the face.

"The price," he meditated aloud, with an effort to resume his
pose, "is a high one to pay for a wave of a grey glove and the
echo of a pretty laugh."

With which final fling at Fortune he set off again for Maitland
Manor, trudging heavily but at a round pace through the dust that
soon settled upon the damp cloth of his trousers legs and
completed their ruination. But Maitland was beyond being disturbed
by such trifles. A wounded vanity engaged his solicitude to the
exclusion of all other interests.

At the end of forty-five minutes he had covered the remaining
distance between Greenfields station and Maitland Manor. For five
minutes more he strode wearily over the side-path by the box hedge
which set aside his ancestral acres from the public highway. At
length, with an exclamation, he paused at the first opening in the
living barrier: a wide entrance from which a blue-stone carriage
drive wound away to the house, invisible in the waning light,
situate in the shelter of the grove of trees that studded the
lawn.

"Gasoline! Brrr!" said Maitland, shuddering and shivering with the
combination of a nauseous odor and the night's coolness--the
latter by now making itself as unpleasantly prominent as the
former.

Though he hated the smell with all his heart, manfully
inconsistent he raised his head, sniffing the air for further
evidence; and got his reward in a sickening gust.

"Tank leaked," he commented with brevity. "Quart of the stuff must
have trickled out right here. Ugh! If it goes on at this rate,
there'll be another breakdown before she gets home." And, "Serve
her right, too!" he growled, vindictive.

But for all his indignation he acknowledged a sneaking wish that
he might be at hand again, in such event, a second time to give
gratuitous service to his grey lady.

Analyzing this frame of mind (not without surprise and some
disdain of him who weakly entertained it) he crossed the drive and
struck in over the lawn, shaping his course direct for the front
entrance of the house.

By dead reckoning the hour was two, or something later; and a
chill was stealing in upon the land, wafted gently southward from
Long Island Sound. All the world beside himself seemed to slumber,
breathless, insensate. Wraith-like, grey shreds of mist drifted
between the serried boles of trees, or, rising, veiled the moon's
wan and pallid face, that now was low upon the horizon. In silent
rivalry long and velvet-black shadows skulked across the ample
breadths of dew-drenched grass. Somewhere a bird stirred on its
unseen perch, chirping sleepily; and in the rapt silence the
inconsiderable interruption broke with startling stress.

In time,--not long,--the house lifted into view: a squat, rambling
block of home-grown architecture with little to recommend it save
its keen associations and its comfort. At the edge of the woods
the lord and master paused indefinitely, with little purpose,
surveying idly the pale, columned facade, and wondering whether or
not his entrance at that ungodly hour would rouse the staff of
house servants. If it did not--he contemplated with mild amusement
the prospect of their surprise when, morning come, they should
find the owner in occupation.

"Bannerman was right," he conceded; "any------" The syllables died
upon his lips; his gaze became fixed; his heart thumped wildly for
an instant, then rested still; and instinctively he held his
breath, tip-toeing to the edge of the veranda the better to
command a view of the library windows.

These opened from ceiling to floor and should by rights have
presented to his vision a blank expanse of dark glass. But, oddly
enough, even while thinking of his lawyer's warning, he had
fancied.... "Ah!" said Maitland softly.

A disk of white light, perhaps a foot or eighteen inches in
diameter, had flitted swiftly across the glass and vanished.

"Ah, ah! The devil, the devil!" murmured the young man
unconsciously.

The light appeared again, dancing athwart the inner wall of the
room, and was lost as abruptly as before. On impulse Maitland
buttoned his top-coat across his chest, turning up the collar to
hide his linen, darted stealthily a yard or two to one side, and
with one noiseless bound reached the floor of the veranda. A
breath later he stood by the front door, where, at first glance,
he discovered the means of entrance used by the midnight marauder;
the doors stood ajar, a black interval showing between them.

So that, then, was the way! Cautiously Maitland put a hand upon
the knob and pushed.

A sharp, penetrating squeak brought him to an abrupt standstill,
heart hammering shamefully again. Gathering himself to spring, if
need be, he crept back toward the library windows, and reconnoitering
cautiously determined the fact that the bolts had just been withdrawn
on the inside of one window frame, which was swinging wide.

"It's a wise crook that provides his own quick exit," considered
Maitland.

The sagacious one was not, apparently, leaving at that moment. On
the contrary, having made all things ready for a hurried flight
upon the first alarm, the intruder turned back, as was clearly
indicated by the motion of the light within. The clink of steel
touching steel became audible; and Maitland nodded. Bannerman was
indeed justified; at that very moment the safe was being attacked.

Maitland returned noiselessly to the door. His mouth had settled
into a hard, unyielding, thin line; and a dangerous light
flickered in his eyes. Temporarily the idler had stepped aside,
giving place to the real man that was Maitland--the man ready to
fight for his own, naked hands against firearms, if it need be.
True, he had but to step into the gun-room to find weapons in
plenty; but these must be then loaded to be of service, and
precious moments wasted in the process--moments in which the
burglar might gain access to and make off with his booty.

Maitland had no notion whatever of permitting anything of the sort
to occur. He counted upon taking his enemy unawares, difficult as
he believed such a feat would be, in the case of a professional
cracksman.

Down the hallway he groped his way to the library door, his
fingers at length encountering its panels; it was closed,
doubtless secured upon the inside; the slightest movement of the
handle was calculated to alarm the housebreaker. Maitland paused,
deliberating another and better plan, having in mind a short
passageway connecting library and smoking-room. In the library
itself a heavy tapestry curtained its opening, while an equally
heavy portiere took the place of a door at the other end. In the
natural order of things a burglar would overlook this.

Inch by inch the young man edged into the smoking-room, the door
to which providentially stood unclosed. Once within, it was but a
moment's work to feel his way to the velvet folds and draw them
aside, fortunately without rattling the brass rings from which the
curtain depended. And then Maitland was in the passage, acutely on
the alert, recognizing from the continued click of metal that his
antagonist-to-be was still at his difficult task. Inch by inch--
there was the tapestry! Very gently the householder pushed it
aside.

An insidious aroma of scorching varnish (the dark lantern)
penetrated the passage while he stood on its threshold, feeling
for the electric-light switch. Unhappily he missed this at the
first cast, and--heard from within a quick, deep hiss of breath.
Something had put the burglar on guard.

Another instant wasted, and it would be too late. The young man
had to chance it. And he did, without further hesitation stepping
boldly into the danger-zone, at the same time making one final,
desperate pass at the spot where the switch should have been--and
missing it. On the instant there came a click of a different
caliber from those that had preceded it. A revolver had been
cocked, somewhere there in the blank darkness.

Maitland knew enough not to move. In another respect the warning
came too late; his fingers had found the switch at last, and
automatically had turned it. The glare was blinding, momentarily;
but the flash and report for which Maitland waited did not come.
When his eyes had adjusted themselves to the suddenly altered
conditions, he saw, directly before him and some six feet distant,
a woman's slight figure, dark cloaked, resolute upon its two feet,
head framed in veiling, features effectually disguised in a motor
mask whose round, staring goggles shone blankly in the warm white
light.

On her part, she seemed to recognize him instantaneously. On
his.... It may as well be admitted that Maitland's wits were gone
wool-gathering, temporarily at least: a state of mind not
unpardonable when it is taken into consideration that he was
called upon to grapple with and simultaneously to assimilate three
momentous facts. For the first time in his life he found himself
nose to nose with a revolver, and that one of able bodied and
respect-compelling proportions. For the first time in his life,
again, he was under necessity of dealing with a housebreaker. But
most stupefying of all he found the fact that this housebreaker,
this armed midnight marauder, was a woman! And so it was not
altogether fearlessness that made him to all intents and purposes
ignore the weapon; it is nothing to his credit for courage if his
eyes struck past the black and deadly mouth of the revolver and
looked only into the blank and expressionless eyes of the wind-mask;
it was not lack of respect for his skin's integrity, but the
sheer, tremendous wonder of it all, that rendered him oblivious to
the eternity that lay the other side of a slender, trembling
finger-tip.

And so he stared, agape, until presently the weapon wavered and
was lowered and the woman's voice, touched with irony, brought him
to his senses.

"Oh," she remarked coolly, "it's only you."

Thunderstruck, he was able no more than to parrot the pronoun:
"_You--you_!"

"Were you expecting to meet any one else, here, to-night?" she
inquired in suavest mockery.

He lifted his shoulders helplessly, and tried to school his tongue
to coherence. "I confess.... Well, certainly I didn't count on
finding you here, Miss Wentworth. And the black cloak, you know--"

"Reversible, of course: grey inside, as you see--Handsome Dan!"
The girl laughed quietly, drawing aside an edge of the garment to
reveal its inner face of silken grey and the fluted ruffles of the
grey skirt underneath.

He nodded appreciation of the device, his mind now busy with
speculations as to what he should do with the girl, now that he
had caught her. At the same time he was vaguely vexed by her
persistent repetition of the obsolescent nickname.

"Handsome Dan," he iterated all but mechanically. "Why do you call
me that, please? Have we met before? I could swear, never before
this night!"

"But you are altogether too modest," she laughed. "Not that it's a
bad trait in the character of a professional.... But really! it
seems a bit incredible that any one so widely advertised as
Handsome Dan Anisty should feel surprise at being recognized. Why,
your portrait and biography have commanded space in every yellow
journal in America recently!"

And, dropping the revolver into a pocket in her cloak, "I was
afraid you might be a servant--or even Maitland," she diverted the
subject, with a nod.

"But--but if you recognized me as Anisty, back there by the ford,
didn't you suspect I'd drop in on you--"

"Why, of course! Didn't _you_ all but tell me that you were
coming here?"

"But--"

"I thought _perhaps_ I might get through before you came, Mr.
Anisty; but I knew all the time that, even if you did manage to
surprise me--er--on the job, you wouldn't call in the police." She
laughed confidently, and--oddly enough--at the same time
nervously. "You are certainly a very bold man, and as surely a
very careless one, to run around the way you do without so much as
troubling to grow a beard or a mustache, after your picture has
been published broadcast."

Did he catch a gleam of admiration in the eyes behind the goggles?
"Now, if ever they get hold of _my_ portrait and print it....
Well!" sighed the girl wickedly, lifting slim, bare fingers in
affected concern to the mass of ruddy hair, "in that event I
suppose I shall have to become a natural blonde!"

Her humor, her splendid fearlessness, the lightness of her tone,
combined with the half-laughing, half-serious look that she swept
up at him, to ease the tension of his emotions. For the first time
since entering the room, he smiled; then in silence for a time
regarded her steadfastly, thinking.

So he resembled this burglar, Anisty, strongly enough to be
mistaken for him--eh? Plainly enough the girl believed him to be
Anisty.... Well, and why not? Why shouldn't he be Anisty for the
time being, if it suited his purpose so to masquerade?

It might possibly suit his purpose. He thought his position one
uncommonly difficult. As Maitland, he had on his hands a female
thief, a hardened character, a common malefactor (strange that he
got so little relish of the terms!), caught red-handed; as
Maitland, his duty was to hand her over to the law, to be dealt
with as--what she was. Yet, even while these considerations were
urging themselves upon him, he knew his eyes appraised her with
open admiration and interest. She stood before him, slight,
delicate, pretty, appealing in her ingenuous candor; and at his
mercy. How could he bring himself to deal with her as he might
with--well, Anisty himself? She was a woman, he a gentle man.

As Anisty, however,--if he chose to assume that expert's identity
for the nonce,--he would be placed at once on a plane of equality
with the girl; from a fellow of her craft she could hardly refuse
attentions. As Anisty, he would put himself in a position to earn
her friendship, to gain--perhaps--her confidence, to learn
something of her necessities, to aid and protect her from the
consequences of her misdeeds; possibly--to sum up--to divert her
footsteps to the paths of a calling less hazardous and more
honorable.

Worthy ambition: to reform a burglar! Maitland regained something
of his lost self-esteem, applauding himself for entertaining a
motive so laudable. And he chose his course, for better or worse,
in these few seconds. Thereby proving his incontestable title to
the name and repute of Mad Maitland.

His face lightened; his manner changed; he assumed with avidity
the role for which she had cast him and which he stood so ready to
accept and act.

"Well and good," he conceded with an air. "I suppose I may as well
own up----"

"Oh, I know _you_," she assured him, with a little, confident
shake of her head. "There's no deceiving me. But," and her smile
became rueful, "if only you'd waited ten minutes more! Of course I
recognized you from the first--down there by the river; and knew
very well what was your--lay; you gave yourself away completely by
mentioning the distance from the river to the Manor. And I did so
want to get ahead of you on this job! What a feather in one's cap
to have forestalled Dan Anisty!... But hadn't you better be a
little careful with those lights? You seem to forget that there
are servants in the house. Really, you know, I find you most
romantically audacious, Mr. Anisty--quite in keeping with your
reputation."

"You overwhelm me," he murmured. "Believe me, I have little
conceit in my fame, such as it is." And, crossing to the windows,
he loosed the heavy velvet hangings and let them fall together,
drawing their edges close so that no ray of light might escape.

She watched him with interest. "You seem well acquainted here."

"Of course. Any man of imagination is at pains to study every
house he enters. I have a map of the premises--house and grounds--
here." He indicated his forehead with a long forefinger.

"Quite right, too--and worth one's while. If rumor is to be
believed, you have ordinarily more than your labor for your pains.
You have taught me something already.... Ah, well!" she sighed, "I
suppose I may as well acknowledge my inferiority--as neophyte to
hierophant. Master!" She courtesied low. "I beg you proceed and
let thy cheela profit through observation!" And a small white hand
gestured significantly toward the collection of burglar's tools,--
drills and chisels, skeleton keys, putty, and all,--neatly
displayed upon the rug before the massive safe.

"You mean that you wish me to crack this safe for you?" he inquired,
with inward consternation.

"Not for me. Disappointment I admit is mine; but not for the loss
I sustain. In the presence of the master I am content to stand
humbly to one side, as befits one of my lowly state in--in the
ranks of our profession. I resign, I abdicate in your favor;
claiming nothing by right of priority."

"You are too generous," he mumbled, confused by her thinly veiled
ridicule.

"Not at all," she replied briskly. "I am entirely serious. My loss
of to-day will prove my gain, tomorrow. I look for incalculable
benefit through study of your methods. My own, I confess," with a
contemptuous toss of her head toward the burglar's kit, "are
clumsy, antiquated, out of date.... But then, I'm only an
amateur."

"Oh, but a woman----" he began to apologize on her behalf.

"Oh, but a woman!" she rapped out smartly. "I wish you to
understand that this woman, at least, is no mean----" And she
hesitated.

"Thief?" he supplied crudely.

"Yes, thief! We're two of a feather, at that."

"True enough.... But you were first in the field; I fail to see
why I should reap any reward for tardiness. The spoils must be
yours."

It was a test: Maitland watched her keenly, fascinated by the
subtlety of the game.

"But I refuse, Mr. Anisty--positively refuse to go to work while
you stand aside and--and laugh."

Pride! He stared, openly amazed, at this bewilderingly feminine
bundle of inconsistencies. With each facet of her character
discovered to him, minute by minute, the study of her became to
him the more engrossing. He drew nearer, eyes speculative.

"I will agree," he said slowly, "to crack the safe, but upon
conditions."

She drew back imperceptibly, amused, but asserting her dignity.
"Yes?" she led him on, though in no accent of encouragement.

"Back there, in the river," he drawled deliberately, forcing the
pace, "I found you--beautiful."

She flushed, lip curling. "And, back there, in the river, I
thought you--a gentleman!"

"Although a burglar?"

"A gentleman for all that!"

"I promise you I mean no harm," he prefaced. "But don't you see
how I am putting myself in your power? Every moment you know me
better, while I have not yet even looked into your face with the
light full upon it. Honor among thieves, little woman!"

She chose to ignore the intimate note in his voice. "You're
wasting time," she hinted crisply.

"I am aware of that fact. Permit me to remind you that you are
helping me to waste it. I will not go ahead until I have seen your
face. It is simply an ordinary precaution."

"Oh, if it's a matter of business----"

"Self-preservation," he corrected with magnificent gravity.

She hesitated but a moment longer, then with a quick gesture
removed her mask. Maitland's breath came fast as he bent forward,
peering into her face; though he schooled his own features to an
expression of intent and inoffensive studiousness, he feared the
loud thumping of his heart would betray him. As he looked it
became evident that the witchery of moonlight had not served to
exaggerate the sensitive, the almost miniature, beauty of her. If
anything, its charm was greater there in the full glare of the
electric chandelier, as she faced him, giving him glance for
glance, quite undismayed by the intentness of his scrutiny.

In the clear light her eyes shone lustrous, pools of tawny flame;
her hair showed itself of a rich and luminous coppery hue, spun to
immeasurable fineness; a faint color burned in her cheeks, but in
contrast her forehead was as snow--the pure, white, close-grained
skin that is the heritage of red-headed women the world over, and
their chiefest charm as well; while her lips....

As for her lips, the most coherent statement to be extracted from
Mr. Maitland is to the effect that they were altogether desirable,
from the very first.

The hauteur of her pose, the sympathy and laughter that lurked in
her mouth, the manifest breeding in the delicate modeling of her
nostrils, and the firm, straight arch of her nose, the astonishing
allurement of her eyes, combined with their spirited womanliness:
these, while they completed the conquest of the young man, abashed
him. He found himself of a sudden endowed with a painful
appreciation of his own imperfections, the littleness of his ego,
the inherent coarseness of his masculine fiber, the poor futility
of his ways, contrasted with her perfections. He felt as if
rebuked for some unwarrantable presumption.... For he had looked
into eyes that were windows of a soul; and the soul was that of a
child, unsullied and immaculate.

You may smile; but as for Maitland, he deemed it no laughing
matter. From that moment his perception was clear that, whatever
she might claim to be, however damning the circumstances in which
she appeared to him, there was no evil in her.

But what he did not know, and did not even guess, was that, from
the same instant, his being was in bondage to her will. So Love
comes, strangely masked.

IV

MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S MADNESS

At length, awed and not a little shamefaced, "I beg your pardon,"
he stammered wretchedly.

"For what?" she demanded quickly, head up and eyes light.

"For insisting. It wasn't--ah--courteous. I'm sorry."

It was her turn now to wonder; delicacy of perception such as this
is not ordinarily looked for in the person of a burglar. With a
laugh and a gibe she tried to pass off her astonishment.

"The thief apologizes to the thief?"

"Unkind!"

Briefly hesitant, with an impulsive gesture she flung out a
generous hand.

"You're right; I was unkind. Forgive me. Won't you shake hands? I ...
I do want to be a good comrade, since it has pleased Fate to
throw us together like this, so--so oddly." Her tone was almost
plaintive; unquestionably it was appealing.

Maitland was curiously moved by the touch of the slim, cool
fingers that lay in his palm. Not unpleasantly. He frowned in
perplexity, unable to analyze the sensation.

"You're not angry?" she asked.

"No--but--but--"

"Yes?"

"Why do you do this, little woman? Why do you stoop to this--this
trade of yo--of ours? Why sully your hands,--and not only your
hands,--imperil your good name, to say nothing of your liberty----?"

She drew her hand away quickly, interrupting him with a laugh that
rang true as a coin new from the mint, honest and genuine.

"And this," she cried, "this from Dan Anisty! Positively, sir, you
are delightful! You grow more dangerously original every minute!
Your scruples, your consideration, your sympathy--they are
touching--in _you_!" She wagged her head daintily in pretense
of disapprobation. "But shall I tell you?" more seriously,
doubtfully. "I think I shall ... truly. I do this sort of thing,
since you must know, because--_imprimis_, because I like it.
Indeed and I do! I like the danger, the excitement, the exercise
of cunning and--and I like the rewards, too. Besides----"

The corners of her adorable mouth drooped ever so slightly.

"Besides----?"

"Why.... But this is not business! We must hurry. Will you, or
shall I----?"

A crisis had been passed; Maitland understood that he must wait
until a more favorable time to renew his importunities.

"I will," he said, dropping on his knees by the safe. "In my
lady's service!"

"Not at all," she interposed. "I insist. The job is now yours;
yours must be the profits."

"Then I wash my hands of the whole affair," he stated in accents
of finality. "I refuse. I shall go, and you can do as you will,--
blunder on," scornfully, "with your nitroglycerin, your rags, and
drills and--and rouse the entire countryside, if you will."

"Ah, but--"

"Will you accept my aid?"

"On conditions, only," she stipulated. "Halvers?"

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