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The Brass Bowl by Louis Joseph Vance

Part 3 out of 5

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"'Tis gone, sor, an'--."

"All right. But," with a rueful smile, "I'll take the liberty of
countermanding Mr. Snaith's order. If he should call again, O'Hagan, I very
much want to see him."

"Faith, and 'tis mesilf will have a worrud or two to whispher in the ear av
him, sor," announced O'Hagan grimly.

"I'm afraid the opportunity will be lacking: ... You may fix me a hot
bath now, O'Hagan, and put out my evening clothes. I'll dine at the club
to-night and may not be back."

And, rising, Maitland approached a mirror; before which he lingered for
several minutes, cataloguing his injuries. Taken altogether, they amounted
to little. The swelling of his wrists and ankles was subsiding gradually;
there was a slight redness visible in the corners of his mouth, and a
shadow of discoloration on his right temple--something that could be
concealed by brushing his hair in a new way.

"I think I shall do," concluded Maitland; "there's nothing to excite
particular comment. The bulk of the soreness is inside."

* * * * *

Seven P. M.

"Time," said the short and thick-set man casually, addressing no one in
particular.

He shut the lid of his watch with a snap and returned the timepiece to his
waistcoat pocket. Simultaneously he surveyed both sides of the short block
between Seventh and St. Nicholas Avenues with one comprehensive glance.

Presumably he saw nothing of interest to him. It was not a particularly
interesting block, for that matter: though somewhat typical of the
neighborhood. The north side was lined with five-story flat buildings,
their dingy-red brick facades regularly broken by equally dingy brownstone
stoops, as to the ground floor, by open windows as to those above. The
south side was mostly taken up by a towering white apartment hotel with
an ostentatious entrance; against one of whose polished stone pillars the
short and thick-set man was lounging.

The sidewalks, north and south, swarmed with children of assorted ages,
playing with that ferocious energy characteristic of the young of Harlem;
their blood-curdling cries and premature Fourth-of-July fireworks created
an appalling din: to which, however, the more mature denizens had
apparently become callous, through long endurance.

Beyond the party-colored lights of a drug-store window on Seventh Avenue,
the electric arcs were casting a sickly radiance upon the dusty leaves of
the tree-lined drive. The avenue itself was crowded with motor-cars and
horse-drawn pleasure vehicles, mostly bound up-town, their occupants
seeking the cooler airs and wider spaces to be found beyond the Harlem
River and along the Speedway. A few blocks to the west Cathedral Heights
bulked like a great wall, wrapped in purple shadows, its jagged contour
stark against an evening sky of suave old rose.

The short and thick-set body, however, seemed to have no particular
appreciation of the beauties of nature as exhibited by West One-hundred and
Eighteenth Street on a summer's evening. If anything, he could
apparently have desired a cooling breeze; for, after a moment's doubtful
consideration, he unbuttoned his waistcoat and heaved a sigh of relief.

Then, carefully shifting the butt of a dead cigar from one corner of his
mouth to the other, where it was almost hidden by the jutting thatch of his
black mustache, and drawing down over his eyes the brim of a rusty plug
hat, he thrust fat hands into the pockets of his shabby trousers and
lounged against the polished pillar even more energetically than before: if
that were possible. An unromantic, apathetic figure, fitting so naturally
into his surroundings as to demand no second look even from the most
observant; yet one seeming to possess a magnetic attraction for the eyes of
the hall-boy of the apartment hotel (who, acquainted by sight and hearsay
with the stout gentleman's identity and calling, bent upon him a steadfast
and adoring regard), as well as for the policeman who lorded it on the St.
Nicholas Avenue corner, in front of the real-estate office, and who from
time to time shifted his contemplation from the infinite spaces of the
heavens, the better to exchange a furtive nod with the idler in the hotel
doorway.

Presently,--at no great lapse of time after the short and thick-set man had
stowed away his watch,--out of the thronged sidewalks of Seventh Avenue a
man appeared, walking west on the north side of the street and reviewing
carelessly the numbers on the illuminated fanlights: a tall man, dressed
all in grey, and swinging a thin walking stick.

The short, thick-set person assumed a mien of more intense abstraction than
ever.

The tall man in grey paused indefinitely before the brownstone stoop of the
house numbered 205, then swung up the steps and into the vestibule. Here he
halted, bending over to scrutinize the names on the letter-boxes.

The short, thick-set man reluctantly detached himself from his polished
pillar and waddled ungracefully across the street.

The policeman on the corner seemed suddenly interested in Seventh Avenue;
and walked in that direction.

The grey man, having vainly deciphered all the names on one side of the
vestibule, straightened up and turned his attention to the opposite wall,
either unconscious of or indifferent to the shuffle of feet on the stoop
behind him.

The short, thick-set man removed one hand from a pocket and tapped the grey
man gently on the shoulder.

"Lookin' for McCabe, Anisty?" he inquired genially.

The grey man turned slowly, exhibiting a countenance blank with
astonishment. "Beg pardon?" he drawled; and then, with a dawning gleam of
recognition in his eyes: "Why, good evening, Hickey! What brings you up
this way?"

The short, thick-set man permitted his jaw to droop and his eyes to
protrude for some seconds. "Oh," he said in a tone of great disgust,
"hell!" He pulled himself together with an effort. "Excuse _me_, Mr.
Maitland," he stammered, "I wasn't lookin' for yeh."

"To the contrary, I gather from your greeting that you were expecting our
friend, Mr. Anisty?" And the grey man smiled.

Hickey smiled in sympathy, but with less evident relish of the situation's
humor.

"That's right," he admitted. "Got a tip from the C'miss'ner's office this
evening that Anisty would be here at seven o'clock lookin' for a party
named McCabe. I guess it's a bum tip, all right; but of course I got to
look into it."

"Most assuredly." The grey man bent and inspected the names again. "I
am hunting up an old friend," he explained carelessly: "a man named
Simmons--knew him in college--down on his luck--wrote me yesterday. There
he is: fourth floor, east. I'll see you when I come down, I hope, Mr.
Hickey."

The automatic lock clicked and the door swung open; the grey man passing
through and up the stairs. Hickey, ostentatiously ignoring the existence of
the policeman, returned to his post of observation.

At eight o'clock he was still there, looking bored.

At eight-thirty he was still there, wearing a puzzled expression.

At nine he called the adoring hall-boy, gave him a quarter with minute
instructions, and saw him disappear into the hallway of Number 205. Three
minutes later the boy was back, breathless but enthusiastic.

"Missis Simmons," he explained between gasps, "says she ain't never heard
of nobody named Maitland. Somebody rang her bell a while ago an' apologized
for disturbin' her--said he wanted the folks on the top floor. I guess yer
man went acrost the roofs: them houses is all connected, and yuh c'n walk
clear from the corner here tuh half-way up tuh Nineteenth Street, on Sain'
Nicholas Avenoo."

"Uh-huh," laconically returned the detective. "Thanks." And turning on his
heel, walked westward.

The policeman crossed the street to detain him for a moment's chat.

"I guess it's all off, Jim," Hickey told him. "Some one must've tipped that
crook off. Anyway, I ain't goin' to wait no longer."

"I wouldn't neither," agreed the uniformed member. "Say, who's yer friend
yeh was talkin' tuh, 'while ago?"

"Oh, a frien' of mine. Yeh didn't have no call to git excited then, Jim.
G'night."

And Hickey proceeded westward, a listless and preoccupied man by the vacant
eye of him. But when he emerged into the glare of Eighth Avenue his face
was unusually red. Which may have been due to the heat. And just before
boarding a down-town surface car, "Oh," he enunciated with gusto, "_hell_!"

* * * * *

One A. M.

Not until the rich and mellow chime had merged into the stillness did the
intruder dare again to draw breath. Coming as it had the very moment that
the door had closed noiselessly behind her, the double stroke had sounded
to her like a knell: or, perhaps more like the prelude to the wild alarum
of a tocsin, first striking her heart still with terror, then urging it
into panic flutterings.

But these, as the minutes drew on, marked only by the dull methodic ticking
of the clock, quieted; and at length she mustered courage to move from the
door, against which she had flattened herself, one hand clutching the knob,
ready to pull it open and fly upon the first aggressive sound.

In the interval her eyes had become accustomed to the darkness. The study
door showed a pale oblong on her right; to her left, and a little toward
the rear of the flat, the door of Maitland's bed-chamber stood ajar. To
this she tiptoed, standing upon the threshold and listening with every
fiber of her being. No sounds as of the regular respiration of a sleeper
warning her, she at length peered stealthily within; simultaneously she
pressed the button of an electric hand-lamp. Its circumscribed blaze
wavered over pillows and counterpane spotless and undisturbed.

Then for the first time she breathed freely, convinced that she had been
right in surmising that Maitland would not return that night.

Since early evening she had watched the house from the window of a
top-floor hall bedroom in the boarding-house opposite. Shortly before seven
she had seen Maitland, stiff and uncompromising in rigorous evening dress,
leave in a cab. Since then only once had a light appeared in his rooms; at
about half-after nine the janitor had appeared in the study, turning up the
gas and going to the telephone.

Whatever the nature of the communication received, the girl had taken it to
indicate that Maitland had decided to spend the night elsewhere; for the
study light had burned for some ten minutes, during which the janitor
could occasionally be seen moving mysteriously about; and something later,
bearing a suitcase, he had left the house and shuffled rapidly eastward to
Madison Avenue.

So she felt convinced that she had all the small hours before her, secure
from interruption. And this time, she told herself, she purposed making
assurance doubly sure....

But first to guard against discovery from the street.

Turning back through the hall, she dispensed with the hand-lamp, entering
the darkened study. Here all windows had been closed and the outer shades
drawn--O'Hagan's last act before leaving with the suit-case: additional
proof that Maitland was not expected back that night. For the temperature
was high, the air in the closed room stifling.

Crossing to the windows, the girl drew down the dark green inner shades
and closed the folding wooden shutters over them. And was conscious of a
deepened sense of security.

Next going to the telephone, she removed the receiver from the hook and let
it hang at the full length of the cord. In the dead silence the small
voice of Central was clearly articulate: "_What number? Hello, what
number_?"--followed by the grumbling of the armature as the operator tried
fruitlessly to ring the disconnected bell. The girl smiled faintly, aware
that there would now be no interruption from an inopportune call.

There remained as a final precaution only a grand tour of the flat; which
she made expeditiously, passing swiftly and noiselessly (one contemplating
midnight raids does not attire one's self in silks and starched things)
from room to room, all comfortably empty. Satisfied at last, she found
herself again in the study, and now boldly, mind at rest, lighted the brass
student lamp with the green shade, which she discovered on the desk.

Standing, hands resting lightly on hips, breath coming quickly, cheeks
flushed and eyes alight with some intimate and inscrutable emotion,
she surveyed the room. Out of the dusk that lay beyond the plash of
illumination beneath the lamp, the furniture began to take on familiar
shapes: the divans, the heavy leather-cushioned easy chairs, the tall clock
with its pallid staring face, the small tables and tabourettes, handily
disposed for the reception of books and magazines and pipes and glasses,
the towering, old-fashioned mahogany book-case, the useless, ornamental,
beautiful Chippendale escritoire, in one corner: all somberly shadowed and
all combining to diffuse an impression of quiet, easy-going comfort.

Just such a study as _he_ would naturally have. She nodded silent
approbation of it as a whole. And, nodding, sat down at the desk, planting
elbows on its polished surface, interlacing her fingers and cradling her
chin upon their backs: turned suddenly pensive.

The mood held her but briefly. She had no time to waste, and much to
accomplish.... Sitting back, her fingers sought and pressed the clasp of
her hand-bag, and produced two articles--a golden cigarette case and a
slightly soiled canvas bag. The Maitland jewels were returning by a devious
way, to their owner.

But where to put them, that he might find them without delay? It must be
no conspicuous place, where O'Hagan would be apt to happen upon
them; doubtless the janitor was trustworthy, but still.... Misplaced
opportunities breed criminals.

It was all a risk, to leave the treasure there, without the protection of
nickeled-steel walls and timelocks; but a risk that must be taken. She
dared not retain it longer in her possession; and she would contrive a way
in the morning to communicate with Maitland and warn him.

Her gaze searched the area where the lamplight fell soft yet strong upon
the dark shining wood and heavy brass desk fittings; and paused, arrested
by the unusual combination of inverted bowl and super-imposed book. A
riddle to be read with facility; in a twinkling she had uncovered the
incriminating hand-print--incriminating if it could be traced, that is to
say.

"Oh!" she cried softly. And laughed a little. "Oh, how careless!"

Fine brows puckered, she pondered the matter, and ended by placing her own
hand over the print; this one fitted the other exactly.

"How he must have wondered! He is sure to look again, especially if...."

No need to conclude the sentence. Quickly she placed bag and case squarely
on top of the impression, the bowl over all, and the book upon the bowl;
then, drawing from her pocket a pair of long grey silk gloves, draped one
across the book; and, head tilted to one side, admired the effect.

It seemed decidedly an artistic effect, admirably calculated to attract
attention. She was satisfied to the point of being pleased with herself: a
fact indicated by an expressive flutter of slim, fair hands.... And now,
to work! Time pressed, and.... A cloud dimmed the radiance of her eyes;
irresolutely she shifted in her chair, troubled, frowning, lips woefully
drooping. And sighed. And a still small whisper, broken and wretched,
disturbed the quiet of the study.

"I can not! O, I can not!... To spoil it all, _now_, when...."

Yet she must. She must forget herself and steel her determination with the
memory that another's happiness hung in the balance, depended upon her
success. Twice she had tried and failed. This third time she _must_
succeed.

And bowing her head in token of her resignation, she turned back squarely
to face the desk. As she did so the toe of one small shoe caught against
something on the floor, causing a dull jingling sound. She stooped, with a
low exclamation, and straightened up, a small bunch of keys in her hand:
eight or ten of them dangling from a silver ring: Maitland's keys.

He must have dropped them there, forgetting them altogether. A find
of value and one to save her a deal of trouble: skeleton keys are so
exasperatingly slow, particularly when used by inexpert hands. But how to
bring herself to make use of these? All's fair in war (and this was a sort
of war, a war of wits at least); but one should fight with one's own arms,
not pilfer the enemy's and turn them against him. To use these keys to
ransack Maitland's desk seemed an action even more blackly dishonorable
than this clandestine visit, this midnight foray.

Swinging the notched metal slips from a slender finger, she contemplated
them: and laughed ruefully. What qualms of conscience in a burglar
self-confessed! She was there for a purpose, a recognized, nefarious
purpose. Granted. Then why quibble?... She would not quibble. She would be
firm, resolute, determined, cold-blooded, unmindful of all kindness and
courtesy and.... She would use them, accomplish her purpose, and have done,
finally and for ever, with the whole hateful business!

There was a bright spot of color on either cheek and a hot light of anger
in her eyes as she set about her task. It would never be less hideous,
never less immediate.

The desk drawers yielded easily to the eager keys. One by one she had them
open and their contents explored--vain repetition of yesterday afternoon's
fruitless task. But she must be sure, she must leave no stone unturned.
Maitland Manor was closed to her for ever, because of last night. But here
she was safe for a few short hours, and free to make assurance doubly sure.

There remained the despatch-box, the black japanned tin box which had
proved obdurate yesterday. She had come prepared to break its lock this
time, if need be; Maitland's carelessness spared her the necessity.

She lifted it out of a lower drawer, and put it in her lap. The smallest
key fitted the lock at the first attempt. The lid came up and....

Perhaps it is not altogether discreditable that one should temporarily
forget one's compunctions in the long-deferred moment of triumph. The girl
uttered a little cry of joy.

Crash!--the front door down-stairs had been slammed.

She was on her feet in a breath, faint with fear. Yet not so overcome
that she forgot her errand, her success. As she stood up she dropped the
despatch-box back into the drawer, without a sound, and, opening her
hand-bag, stuffed something into it.

No time to do more: a dull rumble of masculine voices was distinctly,
frightfully audible in the stillness of the house: voices of men conversing
together in the inner vestibule. One laughed, and the laugh seemed to
penetrate her bosom like a knife. Then both strode across the tiling and
began to ascend, as was clearly told her by footsteps sounding deadened on
the padded carpet.

Panic-stricken, she turned to the student lamp and with a quick twirl and
upward jerk of the chimney-catch extinguished the flame. A reek of smoke
immediately began to foul the close, hot air: and she knew that it would
betray her, but was helpless to stop it. Besides, she was caught, trapped,
damned beyond redemption unless ... unless it were not Maitland, after all,
but one of the other tenants, unexpectedly returned and bound for another
flat.

Futile hope. Upon the landing by the door the footsteps ceased; and a key
grated in the wards of the lock.

Blind with terror, her sole thought an instinctive impulse to hide and so
avert discovery until the last possible instant, on the bare chance of
something happening to save her, the girl caught up her skirts and fled
like a hunted shadow through the alcove, through the bed-chamber, thence
down the hall toward the dining-room and kitchen offices.

The outer door was being opened ere she had reached the hiding-place she
had in mind: the trunk-closet, from which, she remembered remarking, a
window opened upon a fire-escape. It was barely possible, a fighting
chance.

She closed the door, grateful that its latch slipped silently into place,
and fairly flung herself upon the window, painfully bruising her soft hands
in vain endeavor to raise the sash. It stuck obstinately, would not yield.
Too late, she remembered that she had forgotten to draw the catch--fatal
oversight! A sob of terror choked in her throat. Already footsteps were
hurrying down the hall; a line of light brightened underneath the door;
voices, excitedly keyed, bandied question and comment, an unmistakable
Irish brogue mingling with a clear enunciation which she had but too great
reason to remember. The pair had passed into the next room. She could hear
O'Hagan announcing: "No wan here, sor."

"Then it's the dining-room, or the trunk-closet. Come along!"

One last, frantic attempt! But the window catch, rusted with long disuse,
stuck. Panting, sick with fear, the girl leaped away and crushed herself
into a corner, crouching on the floor behind a heavy box, her dark cloak
drawn up to shield her head.

And the door opened.

A flood of radiance from the relighted student lamp fell athwart the floor.
The girl lay close and still, holding her breath.

Ten seconds, perhaps, ticked on into Eternity: seconds that were in
themselves eternities. Then: "No one here, O'Hagan."

The door was closed, and through its panels more faintly came: "Faith, and
the murdhering divvle must've flew th' coop afore ye come in, sor."

The girl tried to rise, to make again for the window; but it was as though
her limbs had turned to water; there was no strength in her; and the
blackness swam visibly before her eyes, radiating away in whirling, streaky
circles.

Even such resolution and strong will as was hers could not prevail against
that numbing, deathly exhaustion. Her eyes closed and her head fell back
against the wall.

It seemed but an instant (though it was in point of fact a full five
minutes) ere the sound of a voice again roused her.

She looked up, dazzled by a gush of warm light.

He stood in the doorway, holding the lamp high above his head, his face
pale, grave, and shadowed as he peered down at her.

"I have sent O'Hagan away," he said gently. "If you will please to come,
now----"

IX

PROCRASTINATION

The cab which picked Maitland up at his lodgings carried him but a few
blocks to the club at which he had, the previous evening, entertained his
lawyer. Maitland had selected it as the one of all the clubs of which he
and Bannerman were members, wherein he was least likely to meet the latter.
Neither frequented its sober precincts by habit. Its severe and classical
building on a corner of Madison Avenue overlooking the Square, is but the
outward presentment of an institution to be a member of which is a duty,
but emphatically no great pleasure, to the sons of a New York family of any
prominence.

But in its management the younger generation holds no suffrage; and is not
slow to declare that the Primordial is rightly named, characterizing the
individual members of the Board of Governors as antediluvians, prehistoric
monsters who have never learned that laughter lends a savor to existence.
And so it is that the younger generation, (which is understood to include
Maitland and Bannerman), while it religiously pays its dues and has
the name of the Primordial engraved upon its cards, shuns those deadly
respectable rooms and seeks its comfort elsewhere.

Maitland found it dull and depressing enough, that same evening, something
before seven. The spacious and impressive lounging-rooms were but sparsely
tenanted, other than by the ennuied corps of servants; and the few members
who had lent the open doors the excuse of their presence were of the
elderly type that hides itself behind a newspaper in an easy chair and
snorts when addressed.

The young man strolled disconsolately enough into the billiard-room, thence
(dogged by a specter of loneliness) to the bar, and finally, in sheer
desperation, to the dining-room, where he selected a table and ordered an
evening paper with his meal.

When the former was brought him, he sat up and began to take a new interest
in life. The glaring head-lines that met his eye on the front page proved
as bracing as a slap in the face.

"'The Maitland Jewels,'" he read, half aloud: "'Daring Attempt at Burglary.
"Mad" Maitland Catches "Handsome Dan" Anisty in the Act of Cracking His
Safe at Maitland Manor. Which was Which? Both Principals Disappear.'"

A dull red glow suffused the reader's countenance; he compressed his lips,
only opening them once, and then to emit a monosyllabic oath, which can
hardly have proved any considerable relief to his surcharged emotional
nature.

The news-story was exploited as a "beat"; it could have been little else,
since nine-tenths of its "exclusive details" had been born full-winged from
the fecund imagination of a busy reporter to whom Maitland had refused an
interview while in his bath, some three hours earlier. Maitland discovered
with relief that boiled down to essentials it consisted simply of
the statement that somebody (presumably himself) had caught somebody
(presumably Anisty) burglarizing the library safe at Maitland Manor that
morning: that one of the somebodies (no one knew which) had overpowered the
other and left him in charge of the butler, who had presently permitted his
prisoner to escape and then talked for publication.

It was not to this so much that Maitland objected. It was the illustrations
that alternately saddened and maddened the young man: the said
illustrations comprising blurred half-tone reproductions of photographs
taken on the Maitland estate; a diagram of the library, as fanciful as
the text it illuminated, and two portraits, side by side, of the heroes,
himself and Anisty, excellent likenesses both of the originals and of each
other.

Mr. Maitland did not enjoy his dinner.

Anxious and preoccupied, he tasted the dishes mechanically; and when they
had all passed before him, took his thoughts and a cigar to a gloomy corner
of the smoking-room, where he sat for two solid hours, debating the matter
pro and con, and arriving at no conclusion whatever, save that Higgins was
doomed.

At ten-fifteen he began to contemplate with positive pleasure the prospect
of discharging the butler. That, at least, was action, something that he
could do; wherever else he thought to move he found himself baffled by the
blank darkness of mystery, or by his fear of publicity and ridicule.

At ten-twenty he decided to move upon Greenfields at once, and telephoned
O'Hagan, advising him to profess ignorance of his employer's whereabouts.

At ten-twenty-two, or in the midst of his admonitions to the janitor,
he changed his mind and decided to stay in New York; and instructed the
Irishman to bring him a suit-case containing a few necessaries; his
intention being to stay out the night at the club, and so avoid the
matutinal siege of his lodgings by reporters and detectives.

At ten-forty-five a club servant handed him the card of a representative of
the _Evening Journal_. Maitland directed that the gentleman be shown into
the reception-room.

At ten-forty-six he skulked out of the club by a side entrance, jumped
into a cab and had himself driven to the East Thirty-fourth Street ferry,
arriving there just in time to miss the last train for Greenfields.

Denied the shelter alike of his lodgings, his club, and his country home,
the young man in despair caused himself to be conveyed to the Bartholdi
Hotel, where, possessed of a devil of folly, he preserved his incognito by
registering under the name of "M. Daniels." And straightway retired to his
room.

But not to rest. The portion of the mentally harassed, sleeplessness, was
his; and for an hour or more he tossed upon his bed (upon which he had
thrown himself without troubling to undress), pondering, to no profit of
his, the hundred problems, difficulties, and disadvantages suggested or
created by the events of the past twenty-four hours.

The grey girl, Anisty, the jewels, himself: unflagging, his thoughts
circumnavigated the world of his romance, touching only at these four
ports, and returning always to linger longest in the harbor of sentiment.

The grey girl: strange that her personality should have come to dominate
his thoughts in a space of time so brief! and upon grounds of intimacy so
slender!... Who and what was she? What cruel rigor of circumstance had
impelled her to seek a livelihood in ways so sinister? At whose door
must the blame be laid, against what flaw in the body social should the
indictment be drawn, that she should have been forced into the ranks of the
powers that prey--a girl of her youth and rare fiber, of her cultivation,
her charm, and beauty?

The sheer loveliness of her, her grace and gentleness, her ingenuous
sensitiveness, her wit: they combined to make the thought of her, to him,
at least, at once terrible and a delight. Remembering that once he had
held her in his arms, had gazed into her starlit eyes, and inhaled the
impalpable fragrance of her, he trembled, was both glad and afraid.

And her ways so hedged about with perils! While he must stand aside,
impotent, a pillar of the social order secure in its shelter, and see her
hounded and driven by the forces of the Law, harried and worried like
an unclean thing, forced, as it might be, to resort to stratagems and
expedients unthinkable, to preserve her liberty....

It was altogether intolerable. He could not stand it. And yet--it was
written that their paths had crossed and parted and were never again to
touch. Or was it?... It must be so written: they would never meet again.
After all, her concern with, her interest in, him, could have been nothing
permanent. They had encountered under strange auspices, and he had treated
her with common decency, for which she had repaid him in good measure by
permitting him to retain his own property. Their account was even, and
she for ever done with him. That must be her attitude. Why should it be
anything else?

"Oh, the devil!" exclaimed the young man in disgust. And rising, took his
distemper to the window.

Leaning on the sill, he thrust head and shoulders far out over the garish
abyss of metropolitan night. The hot breath of the city fanned up in
stifling waves into his face, from the street below, upon whose painted
pavements men crawled like insects--round moving spots, to each his romance
under his hat.

The window was on the corner, overlooking the junction of three great
highways of humanity: Twenty-third Street, with its booming crosstown cars,
stretching away into the darkness on either hand; Broadway, forking off to
the left, its distances merging into a hot glow of yellow radiance;
Fifth Avenue, branching into the north with its desolate sidewalks oddly
patterned in areas of dense shadow and a cold, clear light. Over the way
the park loomed darkly, for all its scattered arcs, a black and silent
space, a well of mystery....

It was late, quite late; the clock in front of Dorlon's (he craned his neck
to see), made the hour one in the morning; the sidewalks were comparatively
deserted, even the pillared portico of the Fifth Avenue Hotel destitute of
loungers. A timid hint of coolness, forerunning the dawn, rode up on the
breeze.

He looked up and away northward, for many minutes, over housetops stenciled
black against the glowing sky, his gaze yearning into vast distances of
space, melancholy tingeing the complexion of his mind. He fancied himself
oppressed by a vague uneasiness, unaccountable as to cause, unless....

From the sublime to the ridiculous with a vengeance, his thoughts tumbled.
Gone the glamour of Romance in a twinkling, banished by rank materialism.
He could have blushed for shame; he got slowly to his feet, irresolute,
trying to grapple with a condition that never before in his existence had
he been called upon to consider.

He had just realized that he was flat-strapped for cash. He had given his
last quarter to the cabby, hours back. He was registered at a strange
hotel, under an assumed name, unable to beg credit even for his breakfast
without declaring his identity and thereby laying himself open to
suspicion, discourtesy, insult....

Of course there were ways out. He could telephone Bannerman, or any
other of half a dozen acquaintances, in the morning; but that involved
explanations, and explanations involved making himself the butt of his
circle for many a weary day. There was money in his lodgings, in the
Chippendale escritoire; but to get it he would have to run the gauntlet
of reporters and detectives which had already dismayed him in prospect.
O'Hagan--ah!

At the head of his bed was a telephone. Impulsively, inconsiderate of the
hour, he turned to it.

"Give me Nine-o-eight-nine Madison, please," he said; and waited, receiver
to ear.

There was a slight pause; a buzz; the voice of the switchboard operator
below stairs repeating the number to Central; Central's appropriately
mechanical reiteration; another buzz; a silence; a prolonged buzz; and
again the sounding silence....

"Hello!" he said softly into the transmitter, at a venture.

No answer.

"Hello!"

Then Central, irritably: "Go ahead. You've got your party."

"Hello, hello!"

A faint hum of voices, rising and falling, beat against the walls of his
understanding. Were the wires crossed? He lifted an impatient finger to
jiggle the hook and call Central to order, when--something crashed heavily.
He could have likened the sound, without a strain of imagination, to a
chair being violently overturned. And then a woman's voice, clear, accents
informed with anger and pain: "_No!_" and then....

"Say, that's my mistake. That line you had's out of order. I had a call for
them a while ago, and they didn't answer. Guess you'll have to wait."

"Central! Central!" he pleaded desperately. "I say, Central, give me that
connection again, please."

"Ah, say! what's the matter with you, anyway? Didn't I tell you that line
was out of order? Ring off!"

Automatically Maitland returned the receiver to its rest; and rose,
white-lipped and trembling. That womans's voice....

X

CONSEQUENCES

Breathing convulsively, wide eyes a little wildly fixed upon his face in
the lamplight, the girl stumbled to her feet, and for a moment remained
cowering against the wall, terribly shaken, a hand gripping a corner of the
packing-box for support, the other pressed against the bosom of her dress
as if in attempt forcibly to quell the mad hammering of her heart.

In her brain, a turmoil of affrighted thought, but one thing stood out
clearly: _now_ she need look for no mercy. The first time it had been
different; she had not been a woman had she been unable then to see
that the adventure intrigued Maitland with its spice of novelty, a new
sensation, fully as much as she, herself, the pretty woman out of place,
interested and attracted him. He had enjoyed playing the part, had been
amused to lead her to believe him an adventurer of mettle and caliber
little inferior to her own--as he understood her: unscrupulous, impatient
of the quibble of _meum-et-tuum_, but adroit and keen-witted, and
distinguished and set apart from the herd by grace of gentle breeding and
chivalric instincts.

How far he might or might not have let this enjoyment carry him, she had no
means of surmising. Not very far, not too far, she was inclined to believe,
strongly as she knew her personality to have influenced him: not far
enough to induce him to trust her out of sight with the jewels. He had
demonstrated that, to her humiliation.

The flush of excitement waning, manlike soon had he wearied of the
game--she thought: to her mind, in distorted retrospect, his attitude
when leaving her at dawn had been insincere, contemptuous, that of a man
relieved to be rid of her, relieved to be able to get away in unquestioned
possession of his treasure. True, the suggestion that they lunch together
at Eugene's had been his.... But he had forgotten the engagement, if ever
he had meant to keep it, if the notion had been more than a whim of the
moment with him. And O'Hagan had told her by telephone that Maitland
had left his rooms at one o'clock--in ample time to meet her at the
restaurant....

No, he had never intended to come; he had wearied; yet, patient with her,
true to the ethics of a gentle man, he had been content to let her go,
rather than to send a detective to take his place....

And this was something, by the way, to cause her to revise her theory as to
the manner in which Anisty had managed to steal the jewels. If Maitland
had gone abroad at one, and without intending to keep his engagement at
Eugene's, then he must have been despoiled before that hour, and without
his knowledge. Surely, if the jewels had been taken from him with his
cognizance, the hue and cry would have been out and Anisty would not have
dared to linger so long in the neighborhood!

To be just with herself, the girl had not gone to the restaurant with much
real hope of finding Maitland there. Curiosity had drawn her,--just to see
if.... But it was too preposterous to credit, that he should have cared
enough.... Quite too preposterous! It was her cup, her bitter cup, to know
that _she_ had learned to care enough--at sight!... And she recalled (with
what pangs of shame and misery begged expression!) how her heart had been
stirred when she had found him (as she thought) true to his tryst: even as
she recalled the agony and distress of mind with which she had a moment
later fathomed Anisty's impersonation.

For, of course, she had known that Maitland was Maitland and none other,
from the instant when he told her to make good her escape and leave him to
brazen it out: a task to daunt even as bold and resourceful a criminal as
Anisty, and more especially if he were called upon to don the mask at a
minute's notice, as Maitland had pretended to. Or, if she had not actually
known, she had been led to suspect: and it had hardly needed what she had
heard him say to the servants, when he thought her flying hotfoot over the
lawn to safety, to harden suspicion into certainty.

And now that he should find her here, a second time a trespasser, doubly
an ingrate,--that he should have caught her red-handed in this abominably
ungrateful treachery!... She could pretend, of course, that she had
returned merely to restore the jewels and the cigarette case; and he would
believe her, for he was generous.... She could, but--she could not. Not
now. Yesterday, the excitement had buoyed her; she had gained a piquant
enjoyment from befooling him, playing _her_ part of the amateur crackswoman
in this little comedy of the stolen jewels. But therein lay the difference:
yesterday it had been comedy, but to-day--ah! to-day she could no longer
laugh. For now she cared.

A little lie would clear her--yes. But it was not to be cleared that she
now so passionately desired; it was to have him believe in her, even
against the evidence of his senses, even in the face of the world's
condemnation; and so prove that he, too, cared--cared for her as his
attitude toward her had taught her to care....

Ever since leaving him in the dawn she had fed her starved heart with the
hope, faint hope though it were, that he would come to care a little, that
he would not utterly despise her, that he would understand and forgive,
when he learned why she had played out her part, nor believe that she was
the embodiment of all that was ignoble, coarse, and crude; that he would
show a little faith in her, a little faith that like a flickering taper
might light the way for ... Love.

But that hope was now dead within her, and cold. She had but to look at
him to see how groundless it had been, how utterly unmoved he was by her
distress. He waited patiently--that was all--seeming so very tall, a pillar
of righteous strength, distinguished and at ease in his evening clothes:
waiting, patient but cold, dispassionate and disdainful.

"I am waiting, you see. Might I suggest that we have not all week for
our--our mutual differences?"

His tone was altogether changed; she would hardly have known it for
his voice. Its incisive, clipped accents were like a knife to her
sensitiveness.... She summoned the reserve of her strength, stood erect,
unsupported, and moved forward without a word. He stood aside, holding the
lamp high, and followed her, lighting the way down the hall to the study.

Once there, she sank quivering into a chair, while he proceeded gravely
to the desk, put down the lamp,--superfluous now, the gas having been
lighted,--and after a moment's thought faced her, with a contemptuous smile
and lift of his shoulders, thrusting hands deep into his pockets.

"Well?" he demanded cuttingly.

She made a little motion of her hands, begging for time; and, assenting
with a short nod, he took a turn up and down the room, then abstractedly
reached up and turned out the gas.

"When you are quite composed I should enjoy hearing your statement."

"I ... have none to make."

"So!"--with his back to the lamp, towering over and oppressing her with the
sense of his strength and self-control. "That is very odd, isn't it?"

"I have no--no explanation to give that would satisfy you, or myself,"
she said brokenly. "I--I don't care what you think," with a flicker
of defiance. "Believe the worst and--and do what you will--have me
arrested----"

He laughed sardonically. "Oh, we won't go so far as that, I guess; harsh
measures, such as arrest and imprisonment, are so unsatisfactory to all
concerned. But I am interested to know why you are here."

Her breathing seemed very loud in the pause; she kept her lips tight,
fearing to speak lest she lose her mastery of self. And hysteria
threatened: the fluttering in her bosom warned her. She must be very
careful, very restrained, if she were to avert that crowning misfortune.

"I don't think I quite understand you," he continued musingly; "surely you
must have anticipated interruption."

"I thought you safely out of the way----"

"One presumed that." He laughed again, unpleasantly. "But how about
Maitland? Didn't you have him in your calculations, or--"

He paused, unfeignedly surprised by her expression. And chuckled when he
comprehended.

"By the powers, I forgot for a moment! So you thought me Maitland, eh?
Well, I'm sorry I didn't understand that from the first. You're so quick,
as a rule, you know,--I confess you duped me neatly this afternoon,--that
I supposed you were wise and only afraid that I'd give you what you
deserve.... If they had sent any one but that stupid ass, Hickey, to nab
me, I'd be in the cooler now. As it was, you kindly selected the very best
kind of a house for my purpose; I went straight up to the roofs and out
through a building round the corner...."

But the shock of discovery, with its attendant revulsion of feeling, had
been too much for her. She collapsed suddenly in the chair, eyes half
closed, face pallid as a mask of death.

Anisty regarded her in silence for a meditative instant, then, taking up
the lamp, strode down the hall to the pantry, returning presently with a
glass brimming with an amber-tinted, effervescent liquid.

"Champagne," he announced, licking his lips. "Wish I had Maitland's means
to gratify my palate. He knows good wine.... Here, my dear, gulp this
down," placing the glass to the girl's lips and raising her head that she
might swallow without strangling.

As it was, she choked and gasped, but after a moment began to show some
signs of having benefited by the draught, a faint color dawning in her
cheeks.

"That's some better," commended the burglar, not unkindly. "Now, if you
please, we'll stop talking pretty and get down to brass tacks. Buck up,
now, and answer my questions. And don't be afraid; I'm holding no great
grudge for what you did this afternoon. I appreciate pluck and grit as much
as anybody, I guess, though I do think you ran it pretty close, peaching on
a pal after you'd lifted the jewels. By the way, why did you do it?"

"Because.... But you wouldn't understand if I told you."

"I suppose not. I'm not much good splitting sentimental hairs. But Maitland
must have been pretty decent to you to make you go so far.... Speaking of
which, where are they?"

"They?"

"Don't sidestep. We understand one another. I _know_ you've brought back
the jewels. Where have you stowed them?"

The wine had fulfilled its mission, endowed her with fresh strength and
renewed spirit. She was thinking quickly, every wit alert.

"I won't tell you."

"Won't, eh? That's an admission that they're here, you know. And you may as
well know I propose to have 'em. Fair means or foul, take your pick. Where
are they?"

"I have told you I wouldn't tell."

"I've known pluckier women than you to change their minds, under pressure."
He came nearer, bending over, face close to hers, eyes savage, and gripped
her wrists none too gently. "Tell me!"

"Let me go."

He proceeded calmly to imprison both small wrists in one strong, bony hand.
"Better tell."

"Let me go!" she panted, struggling to rise.

His voice took on an ugly tone. "Tell!"

She was a child in his hands, but managed nevertheless to rise. As he
applied the pressure more cruelly to her arms she cried aloud with pain
and, struggling desperately, knocked the chair over.

It went down with a crash appallingly loud in that silent house and at that
hour; and taking advantage of his instant of consternation she jerked free
and sprang toward the door. He was upon her in an instant, however, hard
fingers digging into her shoulders. "You little fool!"

"No!" she cried. "No, no, no! Let me go, you--you brute!----"

Abruptly he thought better of his methods and released her, merely putting
himself between her and the doorway.

"Don't be a little fool," he counseled. "You kick up that row and you'll
have us both pinched inside of the next five minutes."

Defiance was on her tongue's tip, but the truth in his words gave her
pause. Palpitating with the shock, every outraged instinct a-quiver, she
subdued herself and fell back, eying him fixedly.

"They're here," he nodded thoughtfully. "You wouldn't have stood for
that if they weren't. And since they are, I can find them without your
assistance. Sit down. I shan't touch you again."

She had scant choice other than to obey. Desperate as she was, her strength
had been severely overtaxed, and she might not presume upon it too greatly.
Fascinated with terror, she let herself down into an easy chair.

Anisty thought for a moment, then went over to the desk and sat himself
before it.

"Keys," he commented, rapidly inventorying what he saw. "How'd you get hold
of them?"

"They are Mr. Maitland's. He must have forgotten them."

The burglar chuckled grimly. "Coincidences multiply. It is odd. That harp,
O'Hagan, was coming in with a can of beer while I was picking the lock, and
caught me. He wanted to know if I'd missed my train for Greenfields, and I
gave him my word of honor I had. Moreover, I'd mislaid my keys and had been
ringing for him for the past ten minutes. He swallowed every word of it....
By the way, here's a glove of yours. You certainly managed to leave enough
clues about to insure your being nabbed even by a New York detective."

He faced about, tossing her the glove, and with it so keen and penetrating
a glance that her heart sank for fear that he had guessed her secret. But
as he continued she regained confidence.

"I could teach you a thing or two," he suggested pleasantly. "You make
about as many mistakes as the average beginner. And, on the other hand,
you've got the majority beaten to a finish for 'cuteness. You're as quick
as they make them."

She straightened up, uneasy, oppressed by a vague surmise as to whither
this tended.

"Thank you," she said breathlessly, "but hadn't you better----"

"Plenty of time, my dear. Maitland has gone to Greenfields and we've
several hours before us.... Look here, little woman, why don't you take
a tumble to yourself, cut out all this nonsense, and look to your own
interests?"

"I don't understand you," she faltered, "but if----"

"I'm talking about this Maitland affair. Cut it out and forget it. You're
too good-looking and valuable to yourself to lose your head just all on
account of a little moonlight flirtation with a good-looking millionaire.
You don't suppose for an instant that there's anything in it for yours, do
you? You're nothing to Maitland--just an incident; next time he meets you,
the baby-stare for yours. You can thank your lucky stars he happened to
have a reputation to sustain as a village cut-up, a gay, sad dog, always
out for a good time and hang the expense!--otherwise he'd have handed you
yours without a moment's hesitation. I'm not doing this up in tin-foil and
tying a violet ribbon with tassels on it, but I'm handing it straight to
you: something you don't want to forget.... You just sink your hooks in
the fact that you're nothing to Maitland and that he's nothing to you, and
never will be, and you won't lose anything--except illusions."

She remained quiescent for a little, hands twitching in her lap, torn by
conflicting emotions--fear of and aversion for the man, amusement, chill
horror bred of the knowledge that he was voicing the truth about her, the
truth, at least, as he saw it, and--and as Maitland would see it.

"Illusions?" she echoed faintly, and raised her eyes to his with a pitiful
attempt at a smile. "Oh, but I must have lost them, long ago; else I
shouldn't be...."

"Here and what you are. That's what I'm telling you."

She shuddered imperceptibly; looked down and up again, swiftly, her
expression inscrutable, her voice a-tremble between laughter and tears:
"Well?"

"Eh?" The directness of her query figuratively brought him up all standing,
canvas flapping and wind out of his sails.

"What are you offering me in exchange for my silly dream?" she inquired, a
trace of spirit quickening her tone.

"A fair exchange, I think ... something that I wouldn't offer you if you
hadn't been able to dream." He paused, doubtful, clumsy.

"Go on," she told him faintly.... Since it must come, as well be over with
it.

"See here." He took heart of desperation. "You took to Maitland when you
thought he was me. Why not take to me for myself? I'm as good a man, better
_as_ a man, than he, if I do blow my own horn.... You side with me, little
woman, and--and all that--and I'll treat you square. I never went back on a
pal yet. Why," brightening with enthusiasm as his gaze appraised her, "with
your looks and your cleverness and my knowledge of the business, we can
sweep the country, you and I."

"Oh!" she cried breathlessly.

"We'll start right now," he plunged on, misreading her; "right now, with
last night's haul. You'll chuck this addled sentimental pangs-of-conscience
lay, hand over the jewels, and--and I'll hand 'em back to you the day we're
married, all set and ... as handsome a wedding present as any woman ever
got...."

She twisted in her chair to hide her face from him, fairly cornered at
last, brain a-whirl devising a hundred maneuvers, each more helpless than
the last, to cheat and divert him for the time, until ... until....

The consciousness of his presence near her, of the sheer strength and might
of will-power of the man, bore upon her heavily; she was like a child in
his hands, helpless.... She turned with a hushed gasp to find that he had
risen and come close to her chair; his face was not a foot from hers, his
eyes dangerous; in another moment he would have his strong arms about her.
She shrank away, terrified.

"No, no!" she begged.

"Well, and why not? Well?"--tensely.

"How do I know?... This afternoon I outwitted you, robbed and sold you
for--for what you call a scruple. How can I know that you are not paying me
back in my own coin?"

"Oh, but little woman!" he laughed tenderly, coming nearer. "It is because
you did that, because you could hold those scruples and make a fool of me
for their sake, that I want you. Don't think I'm capable of playing with
you--it takes a woman to do that. Don't you know,"--he bent nearer and his
breath was warm upon her cheek,--"don't you know that you're too rare and
fine and precious for a man to risk losing?... Come now!"

"Not yet." She started to her feet and away.

"Wait.... There's a cab!"

The street without was echoing with the clattering drum of galloping hoofs.
"At this hour!" she cried, aghast. "Could it be--"

"No fear. Besides--there, it's stopped."

"In front of this house!"

"No, three doors up the street, at least. That's something you must learn,
and I can teach you to judge distance by sound in the darkness--"

"But I tell you," she insisted, retreating before him, "it's a risk....
There, did you hear that?"

"That" was the dulled crash of the front door.

Anisty stepped to the table on the instant and plunged the room in
darkness.

"Steady!" he told her evenly. "Steady. It can't be--but take no chances.
Go to the trunk-closet and get that window open. If it's
Maitland,"--grimly--"well, I'll follow."

"What do you mean? What are you going to do?"

"Leave that to me ... I've never been caught yet."

Cold fear gripped her heart as, in a flash of intuition, she divined his
intention.

"Quick!" he bade her savagely. "Don't you want--"

"I can't see," she invented. "Where's the door? I can't see...."

"Here."

Through the darkness his fingers found hers. "Come," he said.

"Ah!"

Her hand closed over his wrist, and in a thought she had flung herself
before him and caught the other. In the movement her hand brushed against
something that he was holding; and it was cold and smooth and hard.

"Ah! no, no!" she implored. "Not that, not that!"

With an oath he attempted to throw her off, but, frail strength magnified
by a fury of fear, she joined issue with him, clinging to his wrists with
the tenacity of a wildcat, though she was lifted from her feet and dashed
this way and that, brutally, mercilessly, though her heart fell sick within
her for the hopelessness of it, though....

XI

"DAN"----QUIXOTE

Leaving the hotel, Maitland strode quietly but rapidly across the
car-tracks to the sidewalk bordering the park. A dozen nighthawk cabbies
bore down upon him, yelping in chorus. He motioned to the foremost, jumped
into the hansom and gave the fellow his address.

"Five dollars," he added, "if you make it in five minutes."

An astonished horse, roused from a droop-eared lethargy, was yanked almost
by main strength out of the cab-rank and into the middle of the Avenue.
Before he could recover, the long whip-lash had leaped out over the roof
of the vehicle, and he found himself stretching away up the Avenue on a
dead run.

Yet to Maitland the pace seemed deadly slow. He fidgeted on the seat in an
agony of impatience, a dozen times feeling in his waistcoat pocket for his
latch-keys. They were there, and his fingers itched to use them.

By the lights streaking past he knew that their pace was furious, and was
haunted by a fear lest it should bring the police about his ears. At
Twenty-ninth Street, indeed, a dreaming policeman, startled by the uproar,
emerged hastily from the sheltering gloom of a store-entrance, shouted
after the cabby an inarticulate question, and, getting no response,
unsheathed his night-stick and loped up the Avenue in pursuit, making the
locust sing upon the pavement at every jump.

In the cab, Maitland, turning to watch through the rear peep-hole, was
thrown violently against the side as the hansom rocketed on one wheel into
his street. Recovering, he seized the dashboard and gathered himself
together, ready to spring the instant the vehicle paused in its headlong
career.

Through the cabby's misunderstanding of the address, in all likelihood,
the horse was reined in on its haunches some three houses distant from the
apartment building. Maitland found himself sprawling on his hands and
knees on the sidewalk, picked himself up, shouting "You'll wait?" to the
driver, and sprinted madly the few yards separating him from his own front
door, keys ready in hand.

Simultaneously the half-winded policeman lumbered around the Fifth Avenue
corner, and a man, detaching himself from the shadows of a neighboring
doorway, began to trot loutishly across the street, evidently with the
intention of intercepting Maitland at the door.

He was hardly quick enough. Maitland did not even see him. The door
slammed in the man's face, and he, panting harshly, rapped out an
imprecation and began a frantic assault on the push-button marked
"Janitor."

As for Maitland, he was taking the stairs three at a clip, and had his
pass-key in the latch almost as soon as his feet touched the first
landing. An instant later he thrust the door open and blundered blindly
into the pitch-darkness of his study.

For a thought he stood bewildered and dismayed by the absence of light. He
had thought, somehow, to find the gas-jets flaring. The atmosphere was hot
and foul with the odor of kerosene, the blackness filled with strange
sounds and mysterious moving shapes. A grunting gasp came to his ears, and
then the silence and the night alike were split by a report, accompanied
by a streak of orange flame shooting ceilingward from the middle of the
room.

Its light, transient as it was, gave him some inkling of the situation.
Unthinkingly he flung himself forward, ready to grapple with that which
first should meet his hands. Something soft and yielding brushed against
his shoulder, and subconsciously, in the auto-hypnosis of his excitement,
he was aware of a man's voice cursing and a woman's cry of triumph
trailing off into a wail of pain.

On the instant he found himself at grips with the marauder. For a moment
both swayed, dazed by the shock of collision. Then Maitland got a footing
on the carpet and put forth his strength; the other gave way, slipped, and
went to his knees. Maitland's hands found his throat, fingers sinking deep
into flesh as he bore the fellow backward. A match flared noiselessly and
the gas blazed overhead. A cry of astonishment choked in his throat as he
recognized his own features duplicated in the face of the man whose throat
he was slowly and relentlessly constricting. Anisty! He had not thought of
him or connected him with the sounds that had thrilled and alarmed him
over the telephone wire coming out of the void and blackness of night.
Indeed, he had hardly thought any coherent thing about the matter. The
ring of the girl's "No!" had startled him, and he had somehow thought,
vaguely, that O'Hagan had surprised her in the flat. But more than
that....

He glanced swiftly aside at the girl standing still beneath the
chandelier, the match in one hand burning toward her finger-tips, in the
other Anisty's revolver. Their eyes met, and in hers the light of gladness
leaped and fell like a living flame, then died, to be replaced by a look
of entreaty and prayer so moving that his heart in its unselfish chivalry
went out to her.

Who or what she was, howsoever damning the evidence against her, he would
believe against belief, shield her to the end at whatever hazard to
himself, whatever cost to his fortunes. Love is unreasoning and
unreasonable even when unrecognized.

His senses seemed to vibrate with redoubled activity, to become abnormally
acute. For the first time he was conscious of the imperative clamor of the
electric bell in O'Hagan's quarters, as well as of the janitor's rich
brogue voicing his indignation as he opened the basement door and prepared
to ascend. Instantly the cause of the disturbance flashed upon him.

His strangle-hold on Anisty relaxed, he released the man, and, brows
knitted with the concentration of his thoughts, he stepped back and over
to the girl, lifting her hand and gently taking the revolver from her
fingers.

Below, O'Hagan was parleying through the closed door with the late
callers. Maitland could have blessed his hot-headed Irish stupidity for
the delay he was causing.

Already Anisty was on his feet again, blind with rage and crouching as if
ready to spring, only restrained by the sight of his own revolver, steady
and threatening in Maitland's hand.

For the least part of a second the young man hesitated, choosing his way.
Then, resolved, in accents of determination, "Stand up, you hound!" he
cried. "Back to the wall there!" and thrust the weapon under the burglar's
nose.

The move gained instant obedience. Mr. Anisty could not reasonably
hesitate in the face of such odds.

"And you," Maitland continued over his shoulder to the girl, without
removing his attention from the burglar, "into the alcove there, at once!
And not a word, not a whisper, not a sound until I call you!"

She gave him one frightened and piteous glance, then, unquestioning,
slipped quietly behind the portieres.

To Anisty, again: "Turn your pockets out!" commanded Maitland. "Quick, you
fool! The police are below; your freedom depends on your haste." Anisty's
hands flew to his pockets, emptying their contents on the floor.
Maitland's eyes sought in vain the shape of the canvas bag. But time was
too precious. Another moment's procrastination and----

"That will do," he said crisply, without raising his voice. "Now listen to
me. At the end of the hall, there, you'll find a trunk-closet, from which
a window----"

"I know."

"Naturally you would. Now go!"

Anisty waited for no repetition of the permission. Whatever the madness of
Mad Maitland, he was concerned only to profit by it. Never before had the
long arm of the law stretched hungry fingers so near his collar. He went,
springing down the hall in long, soundless strides, vanishing into its
shadows.

As he disappeared Maitland stepped to the door, raised his revolver, and
pulled the trigger twice. The shots detonated loudly in that confined
space, and rang coincident with the clash and clatter of shivered glass. A
thin cloud of vapor obscured the doorway, swaying on the hot, still air,
then parted and dissolved, dissipated by the entrance of four men who,
thrusting the door violently open, struggled into the hallway.

Blue cloth and brass buttons moved conspicuously in the van, a grim face
flushed and perspiring beneath the helmet's vizor, a revolver poised
menacingly in one hand, locust as ready in the other. Behind this outward
and visible manifestation of the law's majesty bobbed a rusty derby,
cocked jauntily back upon the red, shining forehead of a short and
thick-set person with a black mustache. O'Hagan's agitated countenance
loomed over a dusty shoulder, and the battered silk hat of the nighthawk
brought up the rear.

"Come in, everybody," Maitland greeted them cheerfully, turning back into
the study and tossing the revolver, shreds of smoke still curling up from
its muzzle, upon a divan. "O'Hagan," he called, on second thought, "jump
down-stairs and see that all New York doesn't get in. Let nobody in!"

As the janitor unwillingly obeyed, policeman and detective found their
tongues. A volley of questions, to the general purport of "What's th'
meanin' of all this here?" assailed Maitland as he rested himself coolly
on an edge of the desk. He responded, with one eyebrow slightly elevated:
"A burglar. What did you suppose? That I was indulging in target practice
at this time of night?"

"Which way'd he go?"

"Back of the flat--through the window to the fire-escape, I suppose. I
took a couple of shots after him, but missed, and inasmuch as he was
armed, I didn't pursue."

Hickey stepped forward, glowering unpleasantly at the young man. "Yeh go
along," he told the uniformed man, "'nd see 'f he's tellin' the truth.
I'll stay here 'nd keep him company."

His tone amused Maitland. In the reaction from the recent strain upon his
wits and nerve, he laughed openly.

"And who are you?" he suggested, smiling, as the policeman clumped heavily
away. Hickey spat thoughtfully into a Satsuma jardiniere and sneered. "I
s'pose yeh never saw me before?"

Maitland bowed affirmation. "I'm sorry to say that that pleasure has
heretofore been denied me."

"Uh-huh," agreed the detective sourly, "I guess that's a hot one, too." He
scowled blackly in Maitland's amazed face and seemed abruptly to swell
with mysterious rage. "My name's Hickey," he informed him venomously, "and
don't yeh lose sight of that after this. It's somethin' it won't hurt yeh
to remember. Guess yer mem'ry's taking a vacation, huh?"

"My dear man," said Maitland, "you speak in parables and--if you'll pardon
my noticing it--with some uncalled-for spleen. Might I suggest that you
moderate your tone? For," he continued, facing the man squarely, "if you
don't, it will be my duty and pleasure to hoist you into the street."

"I got a photergrapht of yeh doing it," growled Hickey. "Still, seeing as
yeh never saw me before, I guess it won't do no harm for yeh to connect
with this." And he turned back his coat, uncovering the official shield of
the detective bureau.

"Ah!" commented Maitland politely. "A detective? How interesting!"

"Fire-escape winder's broke, all right." This was the policeman, returned.
"And some one's let down the bottom length of ladder, but there ain't
nobody in sight."

"No," interjected Hickey, "'nd there wouldn't 've been if you'd been
waitin' in the back yard all night."

"Certainly not," Maitland agreed blandly; "especially if my burglar had
known it. In which case I fancy he would have chosen another route--by the
roof, possibly."

"Yeh know somethin' about roofs yehself, donchuh?" suggested Hickey.
"Well, I guess yeh'll have time to write a book about it while yeh--"

He stepped unexpectedly to Maitland's side and bent forward. Something
cold and hard closed with a snap around each of the young man's wrists. He
started up, face aflame with indignation, forgetful of the girl hidden in
the alcove.

"What the devil!" he cried hotly, jingling the handcuffs.

"Ah, come off," Hickey advised him. "Yeh can't bluff it for ever, you
know. Come along and tell the sarge all about it, Daniel Maitland,
_Es_-quire, _alias_ Handsome Dan Anisty, gentleman burglar....
Ah, cut that out, young fellow; yeh'll find this ain't no laughin' matter.
Yeh're foxy, all right, but yeh've pushed yer run of luck too hard."

Hickey paused, perplexed, finding no words wherewith adequately to voice
the disgust aroused in him by his prisoner's demeanor, something far from
seemly, to his mind.

The humor of the situation had just dawned upon Maitland, and the young
man was crimson with appreciation.

"Go on, go on!" he begged feebly. "Don't let _me_ stop you, Hickey.
Don't, please, let me spoil it all.... Your Sherlock Holmes, Hickey, is one
of the finest characterizations I have ever witnessed. It is a privilege
not to be underestimated to be permitted to play Raffles to you.... But
seriously, my dear sleuth!" with an unhappy attempt to wipe his eyes with
hampered fists, "don't you think you're wasting your talents?"

By this time even the policeman seemed doubtful. He glanced askance at the
detective and shuffled uneasily. As for the cabby, who had blustered in at
first with intent to demand his due in no uncertain terms, apparently
Maitland's bearing, coupled with the inherent contempt and hatred of the
nighthawk tribe for the minions of the law, had won his sympathies
completely. Lounging against a door-jamb, quite at home, he genially
puffed an unspeakable cigarette and nodded approbation of Maitland's every
other word.

But Hickey--Hickey bristled belligerently.

"Fine," he declared acidly; "fine and dandy. I take off my hat to yeh, Dan
Anisty. I may be a bad actor, all right, but yeh got me beat at the post."

Then turning to the policeman, "I got him right. Look here!" Drawing a
folded newspaper from his pocket, he spread it open for the officer's
inspection. "Yeh see them pictures? Now, on the level, is it
_natural_?"

The patrolman frowned doubtfully, glancing from the paper to Maitland. The
cabby stretched a curious neck. Maitland groaned inwardly; he had seen
that infamous sheet.

"Now listen," the detective expounded with gusto. "Twice to-day this here
Maitland, or Anisty, meets me. Once on the stoop here, 'nd he's Maitland
'nd takes me to lunch--see? Next time it's in Harlem, where I've been sent
with a hot tip from the C'mmiss'ner's office to find Anisty, 'nd he's
still Maitland 'nd surprised to see me. I ain't sure then, but I'm doin'
some heavy thinkin', all right. I lets him go and shadows him. After a
while he gives me the slip 'nd I chases down here, waitin' for him to turn
up. Coming down on the car I buys this paper 'nd sees the pictures, and
then I'm _on_. See?"

"Uh-huh," grunted the patrolman, scowling at Maitland. The cabby caressed
his nose with a soiled forefinger reflectively, plainly a bit prejudiced
by Hickey's exposition.

"One minute," Maitland interjected, eyes twinkling and lips twitching.
"How long ago was it that you began to watch this house, sleuth?"

"Five minutes before yeh come home," responded Hickey, ignoring the
insult. "Now--"

"Took you a long time to figure this out, didn't it? But go on, please."

"Well, I picked the winner, all right," flared the detective. "I guess
that'll be about all for yours."

"Not quite," Maitland contradicted brusquely, wearying of the
complication. "You say you met me on the stoop here. At what o'clock?"

"One; 'nd yeh takes me to lunch at Eugene's."

"Ah! When did I leave you?"

"I leaves yeh there at two."

"Well, O'Hagan will testify that he left me in these rooms, in
dressing-gown and slippers at about one. At four he found me on this
divan, bound and gagged, by courtesy of your friend, Mr. Anisty. Now,
when was I with you in Harlem?"

"At seven o'clock, to the minute, yeh comes--"

"Never mind. At ten minutes to seven I took a cab from here to the
Primordial Club, where I dined at seven precisely."

"And what's more," interposed the cabman eagerly, "I took yer there, sir."

"Thank you. Furthermore, sleuth, you say that you followed me around town
from seven o'clock until--when?"

"I said--" stammered the plain-clothes man, purple with confusion.

"No matter. I didn't leave the Primordial until a quarter to eleven. But
all this aside, as I understand it, you are asserting that, having given
you all this trouble to-day, and knowing that you were after me, I
deliberately hopped into a cab fifteen minutes ago, came up Fifth Avenue
at such breakneck speed that this officer thought it was a runaway, and
finally jumped out and ran up-stairs here to fire a revolver three times,
for no purpose whatsoever beyond bringing you gentlemen about my ears?"

Hickey's jaw sagged. The cabby ostentatiously covered his mouth with a
huge red paw and made choking noises.

"Pass it up, sarge, pass it up," he whispered hoarsely.

"Shut yer trap," snapped the detective. "I know what I'm doin'. This
crook's clever all right, but I got the kibosh on him this time. Lemme
alone." He squared his shoulders, blustering to save his face. "I don't
know why yeh done it----"

"Then I'll tell you," Maitland cut in crisply. "If you'll be good enough
to listen." And concisely narrated the events of the past twenty-four
hours, beginning at the moment when he had discovered Anisty in Maitland
Manor. Save that he substituted himself for the man who had escaped from
Higgins and eliminated all mention of the grey girl, his statement was
exact and convincing. As he came down to the moment when he had called up
from the Bartholdi and heard mysterious sounds in his flat, substantiating
his story by indicating the receiver that dangled useless from the
telephone, even Hickey was staggered.

But not beaten. When Maitland ceased speaking the detective smiled
superiority to such invention.

"Very pretty," he conceded. "Yeh c'n tell it all to the magistrate
to-morrow morning. Meantime yeh'll have time to think up a yarn
explainin' how it come that a crook like Anisty made three attempts in
one day to steal some jewels, 'nd didn't get 'em. Where were they all
this time?"

"In safe-keeping," Maitland lied manfully, with a furtive glance toward
the alcove.

"Whose?" pursued Mr. Hickey truculently.

"Mine," with equanimity. "Seriously--_sleuth!_--are you trying to
make a charge against me of stealing my own property?"

"Yeh done it for a blind. 'Nd that's enough. Officer, take this man to the
station; I'll make the complaint."

The policeman hesitated, and at this juncture O'Hagan put in an
appearance, lugging a heavy brown-paper bundle.

"Beg pardon, Misther Maitland, sor----?"

"Well, O'Hagan?"

"The crowd at the dure, sor, is dishpersed," the janitor reported. "A
couple av cops kem along an' fanned 'em. They're askin' fer the two av
yees," with a careless nod to the policeman and detective.

"Yeh heard what I said," Hickey answered the officer's look.

"I'm thinkin'," O'Hagan pursued, calmly ignoring the presence of the
outsiders, "thot these do be the soot that domned thafe av the worruld
stole off ye the day, sor. A la-ad brought ut at ayeleven o'clock, sor,
wid particular rayquist thot ut be daylivered to ye at once. The paper's
tore, an'----"

"O'Hagan," Maitland ordered sharply, "undo that parcel. I think I can
satisfy you now, sleuth. What kind of a suit did your luncheon
acquaintance wear?"

"Grey," conceded Hickey reluctantly.

"An' here ut is," O'Hagan announced, arraying the clothing upon a chair.
"Iv'ry domn' thing, aven down to the socks.... And a note for ye, sor."

As he shook out the folds of the coat a square white envelope dropped to
the floor; the janitor retrieved and offered it to his employer.

"Give it to the sleuth," nodded Maitland.

Scowling, Hickey withdrew the inclosure--barely glancing at the
superscription.

"'Dear Mr. Maitland,'" he read aloud; "'As you will probably surmise, my
motive in thus restoring to you a portion of your property is not
altogether uninfluenced by personal and selfish considerations. In brief,
I wish to discover whether or not you are to be at home to-night. If not,
I shall take pleasure in calling; if the contrary, I shall feel that in
justice to myself I must forego the pleasure of improving an acquaintance
begun under auspices so unfavorable. In either case, permit me to thank
you for the use of your wardrobe,--which, quaintly enough, has outlived
its usefulness to me: a fat-headed detective named Hickey will tell you
why,--and to extend to you expression of my highest consideration.
Believe me, I am enviously yours, Daniel Anisty'--Signed," added Hickey
mechanically, his face working.

"Satisfied, Sleuth?"

By way of reply, but ungraciously, the detective stepped forward and
unlocked the handcuffs.

Maitland stood erect, smiling. "Thank you very much, sleuth. I shan't
forget you ... O'Hagan," Tossing the janitor the keys from his desk,
"you'll find some--ah--lemon-pop and root-beer in the buffet, this officer
and his friends will no doubt join you in a friendly drink downstairs.
Cabby, I want a word with you.... Good morning, gentlemen, _Good Morning,_
sleuth."

And he showed them the door. "I shall be at your service officer," he
called over the janitor's shoulder, "at any time to-morrow morning. If not
here, O'Hagan will tell you where to find me. And, O'Hagan!" The Janitor
fell back. "Keep them at least an hour," Maitland told him guardedly, "and
say nothing."

The Irishman pledged his discretion by a silent look. Maitland turned back
to the cabby.

"You did me a good turn, just now," he began.

"Don't mention it, sir; I've carried you hoften before this evenin',
and--excuse my sayin' so--I never _'ad_ a fare as tipped 'andsomer.
It's a real pleasure, sir, to be of service."

"Thank you," returned Maitland, eying him in speculative wise. "I
wonder--"

The man was a rough, burly Englishman of one of the most intelligent, if
not intellectual, kind; the British cabby, as a type, has few superiors
for sheer quickness of wit and understanding. This man had been sharpened
and tempered by his contact with American conditions. His eyes were
shrewd, his face honest if weather-beaten, his attitude respectful.

"I've another use for you to-night," Maitland decided, "if you are at
liberty and--discreet?" The final word was a question, flung over his
shoulder as he turned toward the escritoire.

"Yes, sir," said the man thoughtfully. "I allus can drive, sir, even when
I'm drinkin' 'ardest and can't see nothink."

"Yes? You've been drinking to-night?" Maitland smiled quietly, standing at
the small writing-desk and extracting a roll of bills from a concealed
drawer.

"I'm fair blind, sir."

"Very well." Maitland turned and extended his hand, and despite his
professed affliction, the cabby's eyes bulged as he appreciated the size
of the bill.

"My worrd!" he gasped, stowing it away in the cavernous depths of a
trousers pocket.

"You will wait outside," said Maitland, "until I come out or--or send
somebody for you to take wherever directed. Oh, that's all right--not
another word!"

The door closed behind the overwhelmed nighthawk, and the latch clicked
loudly. For a space Maitland stood in the hallway, troubled, apprehensive,
heart strangely oppressed, vision clouded by the memory of the girl as he
had seen her only a few minutes since: as she had stood beneath the
chandelier, after acting upon her primary clear-headed impulse to give her
rescuer the aid of the light.

He seemed to recall very clearly her slight figure, swaying, a-quiver with
fright and solicitude,--care for him!--her face, sensitive and sweet
beneath its ruddy crown of hair, that of a child waking from evil dreams,
her eyes seeking his with their dumb message of appeal and of.... He dared
not name what else.

Forlorn, pitiful, little figure! Odd it seemed that he should fear to face
her again, alone, that he should linger reluctant to cross the threshold
of his study, mistrustful and afraid alike of himself and of her--a thief.

For what should he say to her, other than the words that voiced the hunger
of his heart? Yet if he spoke ... words such as those to--to a thief ...
what would be the end of it all?

What did it matter? Surely he, who knew the world wherein he lived and
moved and had his being, knew bitter well the worth of its verdicts. The
world might go hang, for all he cared. At least his life was his own,
whether to make or to mar, and he had not to answer for it to any power
this side of the gates of darkness. And if by any act of his the world
should be given a man and a woman in exchange for a thief and an idler,
perhaps in the final reckoning his life might not be accounted altogether
wasted....

He set back his shoulders and inspired deeply, eyes lightening; and
stepped into the study, resolved. "Miss--" he called huskily; and
stopped, reminded that not yet did he even know her name.

"It is safe now," he amended, more clearly and steadily, "to come out, if
you will."

He heard no response. The long gleaming folds of the portieres hung
motionless. Still, a sharp and staccato clatter of hoofs that had risen in
the street, might have drowned her voice.

"If you please--?" he said again, loudly.

The silence sang sibilant in his ears; and he grew conscious of a sense of
anxiety and fear stifling in its intensity.

At length, striding forward, with a swift gesture he flung the hangings
aside.

XII

ON RECONSIDERATION

Gently but with decision Sergeant Hickey set his face against the
allurement of the wine-cup and the importunities of his fellow-officers.

He was tired, he affirmed with a weary nod; the lateness of the hour
rendered him quite indisposed for convivial dalliance. Even the sight of
O'Hagan, seduction incarnated, in the vestibule, a bottle under either
arm, clutching a box of cigars jealously with both hands, failed to move
the temperate soul.

"Nah," he waved temptation aside with a gesture of finality. "I don't
guess I'll take nothin' to-night, thanks. G'night all."

And, wheeling, shaped a course for Broadway.

The early morning air breathed chill but grateful to his fevered brow.
Oddly enough, in view of the fact that he had indulged in no very violent
exercise, he found himself perspiring profusely. Now and again he saw fit
to pause, removing his hat and utilizing a large soiled bandana with grim
abandon.

At such times his face would be upturned, eyes trained upon the dim
infinities beyond the pale moon-smitten sky. And he would sigh
profoundly--not the furnace sigh of a lover thinking of his mistress, but
the heartfelt and moving sigh of the man of years and cares who has drunk
deep of that cup of bitterness called Unappreciated Genius.

Then, tucking the clammy bandana into a hip pocket and withdrawing his
yearning gaze from the heavens, would struggle on, with a funereal
countenance as the outward and visible manifestation of a mind burdened
with mundane concerns: such as (one might shrewdly surmise) that
autographed portrait of a Deputy Commissioner of Police which the
detective's lynx-like eyes had discovered on Maitland's escritoire,
unhappily, toward the close of their conference, or, possibly, the mighty
processes of departmental law, with its attendant annoyances of charges
preferred, hearings before an obviously prejudiced yet high-principled
martinet, reprimands and rulings, reductions in rank, "breaking,"
transfers; or--yet a third possibility--with the prevailing rate of wage
as contrasted between detective and "sidewalk-pounder," and the cost of
living as contrasted between Manhattan, on the one hand, and Jamaica,
Bronxville, or St. George, Staten Island, on the other.

A dimly lighted side-entrance presently loomed invitingly in the
sergeant's path. He glanced up, something surprised to find himself on
Sixth Avenue; then, bowed with the fatigue of a busy day, turned aside,
entering a dingy back room separated from the bar proper (at that illicit
hour) by a curtain of green baize. A number of tables whose sloppy
imitation rosewood tops shone dimly in the murky gas-light, were set
about, here and there, for the accommodation of a herd of sleepy-eyed,
case-hardened habitues.

Into a vacant chair beside one of these the detective dropped, and
familiarly requested the lantern-jawed waiter, who presently bustled to
his side, to "Back meh up a tub of suds, George.... Nah," in response to a
concerned query, "I ain't feelin' up to much to-night."

Hat tilted over his eyes, one elbow on the chairback, another on the
table, flabby jowls quivering as he mumbled the indispensable cigar, puffy
hands clasped across his ample chest, he sat for many minutes by the side
of his unheeded drink, pondering, turning over and over in his mind the
one idea it was capable of harboring at a time.

"He c'u'd 've wrote that letter to himself.... He's wise enough.... Yeh
can't fool Hickey all the time.... I'll get him yet. Gottuh make good 'r
it's the sidewalks f'r mine.... Me, tryin' hard to make an 'onest
livin'.... 'Nd him with all kinds of money!"

The fat mottled fingers sought a waistcoat pocket and, fumbling therein,
touched caressingly a little pellet of soft paper. Its possessor did not
require to examine it to reassure himself as to its legitimacy as a work
of art, nor as to the prominence of the Roman C in its embellishment of
engraved arabesques.

"A century," he reflected sullenly; "one lonely little century for mine.
'Nd _he_ had a wad like a ham ... _on_ him.... 'Nd I might've had
it all for my very own if...." His brow clouded blackly.

"_Sleuth!_" Hickey ground the epithet vindictively between his teeth.
And spat. "Sleuth! Ah hell!"

Recalled to himself by the very vehemence of his emotion, he turned
hastily, drained to its dregs the tall glass of lukewarm and vapid beer
which had stood at his elbow, placed a nickel on the table, and, rising,
waddled hastily out into the night.

It was being borne in upon him with much force that if he wished to save
his name and fame somethin' had got to be done about it.

"I hadn't oughtuh left him so long, I guess," he told himself; "but ...
I'll _get_ him all right."

And turning, lumbered gloomily eastward, rapt with vain imaginings, squat,
swollen figure blending into the deeper, meaner shadows of the Tenderloin;
and so on toward Maitland's rooms--morose, misunderstood, malignant,
coddling his fictitious wrongs; somehow pathetically typical of the force
he represented.

On the corner of Fifth Avenue he paused, startled fairly out of his dour
mood by the loud echo of a name already become too hatefully familiar to
his ears, and by the sight of what, at first glance, he took to be the
beginning of a street brawl.

XIII

FLIGHT

In the alcove the girl waited, torn in the throes of incipient hysteria:
at first too weak from reaction and revulsion of feeling to do anything
other than lean heavily against the wall and fight with all her strength
and will against this crawling, shuddering, creeping horror of nerves,
that threatened alike her self-control, her consciousness, and her reason.

But insensibly the tremor wore itself away, leaving her weary and worn but
mistress of her thoughts and actions. And she dropped with gratitude into
a chair, bending an ear attentive to the war of words being waged in the
room beyond the portieres.

At first, however, she failed to grasp the import of the altercation. And
when in time she understood its trend, it was with incredulity,
resentment, and a dawning dread lest a worse thing might yet befall her,
worse by far than aught that had gone before. But to be deprived of his
protection, to feel herself forcibly restrained from the shelter of his
generous care--!

A moment gone she had been so sure that all would now be well with her,
once Maitland succeeded in ridding himself of the police. He would shut
that door and----and then she would come forth and tell him, tell him
everything, and, withholding naught that damned her in her own esteem,
throw herself upon his mercy, bruised with penitence but serene in the
assurance that he would prove kind.

She had such faith in his tender and gentle kindness now.... She had
divined so clearly the motive that had permitted Anisty's escape in order
that she might be saved, not alone from Anisty, not alone from the shame
of imprisonment, but from herself as well--from herself as Maitland knew
her. The burglar out of the way, by ruse, evasion, or subterfuge she would
be secreted from the prying of the police, smuggled out of the house and
taken to a place of safety, given a new chance to redeem herself, to clean
her hands of the mire of theft, to become worthy of the womanhood that was
hers....

But now--she thrust finger-nails cruelly into her soft palms, striving to
contain herself and keep her tongue from crying aloud to those three
brutal, blind men the truth: that she was guilty of the robbery, she with
Anisty; that Maitland was--Maitland: a word synonymous with "man of
honor."

In the beginning, indeed, all that restrained her from doing so was her
knowledge that Maitland would be more pained by her sacrifice than
gladdened or relieved. He was so sure of clearing himself.... It was
inconceivable to her that there could be men so stupid and crassly
unobservant as to be able to confuse the identity of the two men for a
single instant. What though they did resemble each other in form and
feature? The likeness went no deeper: below the surface, and rising
through it with every word and look and gesture, lay a world-wide gulf of
difference in every shade of thought, feeling, and instinct.

She herself could never again be deceived--no, never! Not for a second
could she mistake the one for the other.... What were they saying?

The turmoil of her indignation subsided as she listened, breathlessly, to
Maitland's story of his adventures; and the joy that leaped in her for his
frank mendacity in suppressing every incident that involved her, was all
but overpowering. She could have wept for sheer happiness; and at a later
time she would; but not now, when everything depended on her maintaining
the very silence of death.

How dared they doubt him? The insolents! The crude brutish insolence of
them! Her anger raged high again ... and as swiftly was quenched,
extinguished in a twinkling by a terror born of her excitement and a bare
suggestion thrown out by Hickey.

"... _explainin' how a crook like Anisty made three tries in one day to
steal some jewels and didn't get 'em. Where were they, all this time?_"

Maitland's cool retort was lost upon her. What matter? If they disbelieved
him, persisted in calling him Anisty, in natural course they would
undertake to search the flat. And if she were found.... Oh, she must spare
him that! She had given him cause for suffering enough. She must get away,
and that instantly, before.... From a distance, to-morrow
morning,--to-night, even,--by telegraph, she could communicate with him.

At this juncture O'Hagan entered with his parcel. The rustle of the paper
as he brushed against the door-jamb was in itself a hint to a mind keyed
to the highest pitch of excitement and seeking a way of escape from a
position conceived to be perilous. In a trice the girl had turned and
sped, lightfooted, to the door opening on the private hall.

Here, halting for a brief reconnaissance, she determined that her plan was
feasible, if hazardous. She ran the risk of encountering some one
ascending the stairs from the ground floor; but if she were cautious and
quick she could turn back in time. On the other hand, the men whom she
most feared were thoroughly occupied with their differences, dead to all
save that which was happening within the room's four walls. A curtain hung
perhaps a third of the way across the study door, tempering the light in
the hall; and the broad shoulders of the cabby obstructed the remainder of
the opening.

It was a chance. She poised herself on tiptoe, half undecided, and--the
rustling of paper as O'Hagan opened the parcel afforded her an opportunity
to escape, by drowning the noise of her movements.

For two eternal seconds she was edging stealthily down toward the outer
door; then, in no time at all, found herself on the landing
and--confronted by a fresh complication, one unforeseen: how to leave the
house without being observed, stopped, and perhaps detained until too
late? There would be men at the door, beyond doubt; possibly police,
stationed there to arrest all persons attempting to leave....

No time for weighing chances. The choice of two alternatives lay before
her: either to return to the alcove or to seek safety in the darkness of
the upper floors--untenanted, as she had been at pains to determine. The
latter seemed by far the better, the less dangerous, course to pursue. And
at once she took it.

There was no light on the first-floor landing--it having presumably been
extinguished by the janitor early in the evening. Only a feeble twilight
obtained there, in part a reflected glow from the entrance hall, partly
thin and diffused rays escaping from Maitland's study. So it was that the
first few steps upward took the girl into darkness so close and unrelieved
as to seem almost palpable.

At the turn of the staircase she paused, holding the rail and resting for
an instant, the while she listened, ere ascending at a more sedate pace to
a haven of safety more complete in that it would be more remote from the
battle-ground below.

And, resting so, was suddenly chilled through and through with fear, sheer
childish dread of the intangible and unknown terrors that lurked in the
blackness above her. It was as if, rendered supersensitive by strain and
excitement, the quivering filaments of her subconsciousness, like
spiritual tentacles feeling ahead of her, had encountered and recoiled
from a shape of evil, a specter of horror obscene and malign, crouching,
ready to spring, there, in the shadow of night. . . .

And her breath was smothered in her throat and her heart smote so madly
against the frail walls of its cage that they seemed like to burst, while
she stood transfixed, frozen in inaction, limbs stiffening, roots of her
hair stirring, fingers gripping the banister rail until they pained her;
and with eyes that stared wide into the black heart of nothingness, until
the night seemed pricked with evanescent periods of dim fire, peopled with
monstrous and terrible shadows closing about her. . . .

Yet--it was absurd! She must not yield to such puerile superstitions.

There was nothing there. . . .

There _was_ something there . . . something that like an incarnation
of hatred was stalking her. . . .

If only she dared scream! If only she dared turn and fly, back to the
comfort of light and human company!...

There arose a trampling of feet in the hallway; and she heard Maitland's
voice like a far echo, as he bade the police good night. And distant and
unreachable as he seemed, the sound of his words brought her strength and
some reassurance, and she grew slightly more composed. Yet, the instant
that he had turned away to talk to the cabman, her fright of that
unspeakable and incorporeal menace flooded her consciousness like a great
wave, sweeping her--metaphorically--off her feet. And indeed, for the
time, she felt as if drowning, overwhelmed in vast waters, sinking,
sinking into the black abyss of syncope....

Then, as a drowning person--we're told--clutches at straws, she grasped
again at the vibrations of his voice.... What was he saying?

"_You will wait outside, please, until I come out or send somebody, whom
you will take wherever directed_...."

----Speaking to the cabman, thinking of her, providing for her escape!
Considerate and fore-sighted as always! How she could have thanked him!
The warmth of gratitude that enveloped her almost unnerved her; she was
put to it to restrain her impulse to rush down the stairs and....

But no; she must not risk the chance of rebuff. How could she foretell
what was in his mind and heart, how probe the depths of his feeling toward
her? Perhaps he would receive her protestations in skeptic spirit. Heaven
knew he had cause to! Dared she.... To be repulsed!...

But no. He had provided this means for flight; she would advantage herself
of it and ... and thank him by letter. Best so: for he must ever think the
worst of her; she could never undeceive him--pride restraining and
upholding her.

Better so; she would go, go quickly, before he discovered her absence from
the flat.

And incontinently she swung about and flew down the stairs, silently,
treading as lightly on the heavily padded steps as though she had been
thistledown whirled adrift by the wind, altogether heedless of the
creeping terror she had sensed on the upper flight, careless of all save
her immediate need to reach that cab before Maitland should discover that
she had escaped.

The door was just closing behind the cabby as she reached the bottom step;
and she paused, considering that it were best to wait a moment, at least,
lest he should be surprised at the quickness with which his employer found
work for him; paused and on some mysterious impulse half turned, glancing
back up the stairs.

Not a thought too soon; another instant's hesitation and she had been
caught. Some one--a man--was descending; and rapidly. Maitland? Even in
her brief glance she saw the white shield of a shirt bosom gleam dull
against the shadows. Maitland was in evening dress. Could it be
possible...?

No time now for conjecture, time now only for action. She sprang for the
door, had it open in a trice, and before the cabby was really enthroned
upon his lofty box, the girl was on the step, fair troubled face upturned
to him in wild entreaty.

"Hurry!" she cried, distracted. "Drive off, at once! Please--oh, please!"

Perhaps the man had expected something of the sort, analyzing Maitland's
words and manner. At all events he was quick to appreciate. This was what
he had been engaged for and what he had been paid for royally, in advance.

Seizing reins and whip, he jerked the startled animal between the shafts
out of its abstraction and----

"I say, cabby! One moment!"

The cabman turned; the figure on the stoop of the house was undoubtedly
Maitland's--Maitland as he had just seen him, with the addition of a hat.
As he looked the man was at the wheel, clambering in.

"Changed my mind--I'm coming along, cabby," he said cheerfully. "Drive us
to the St. Luke Building, please and--hurry!"

"Yessir!"

Bitter as poverty the cruel lash cut round the horse's flanks; and as the
hansom shot out at break-neck speed toward Fifth Avenue, the girl cowered
back in her corner, shivering, staring wide-eyed at the man who had so
coolly placed himself at her side.

This, then, was that nameless danger that had stalked her on the

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